AV-8B Harrier II+

  1. Introduction.

The Harrier is the world’s first fighter jet capable of vertical take-off and landing. It is a highly versatile device that combines the capabilities of a fixed-wing fighter with that of a helicopter.

The Spanish Navy was aware of the need to adopt a fixed-wing air vector, in order to guarantee the self-defense of its ships when they were out of reach of the Air Force planes, based on land.

With this objective, a series of tests began at the end of 1972, in which the British pilot John Farley demonstrated that the wooden deck of the “Daedalus” would withstand the temperature of the gases generated by the Harrier turbine.

Seven Harrier AV-8As were purchased from the United States, which manufactured them under license from the United Kingdom. During the training period in the United States, one device was lost.

2. The AV-8A / S Matador.

The planes corresponded to the Mk-53 (single-seater) and MK-58 (two-seater) models, called AV-8A and TAV-8A.

Said aircraft arrived in Spain in 1976, joining the Eighth Squadron, operating from the Rota naval air base and from the Dédalo Aircraft Carrier.

In 1980, five new Harrier units were received, this time bought directly from Britain, of the model MK-55, known as the AV-8S.

These devices were practically identical to the AV-8A, but had a series of VHF band antennas, which facilitated contact with helicopters on the high seas.

Later, the Navy Harriers were modernized, being equipped with Marconi Skyguard 2000 radar warning warning devices, ECM AN / ALE 7 jammer, TACAN, IFF, Smiths Industries HUD, Sperry G2C gyrocompass and other navigation systems.

3. The AV-8B Harrier II “Cobra”.

The AV-8B Harrier II features a new fuselage significantly larger than the initial models.

Among the novelties, the Bravo model, as it is called, presents a new supercritical wing design with extensions at the root of the leading edge (LERX) that allows a greater fuel capacity (2,347 Kg.) And is equipped with a box of carbon fiber torsion.

Likewise, a more powerful engine was mounted to lift the greater weight of the new fuselage.

The Spanish Navy became interested in this aircraft to operate on the new Prince of Asturias (R-11) ship together with the AV-8S of the 8th squadron in service at that time.

The 12 units acquired formed the new Ninth Squadron. The first three aircraft were received at B.N. of Rota on October 6, 1987, and were renamed AV-8B “Cobras”.

These aircraft had advanced avionics, including AN / AYK-14 (V) mission computers, Lear Siegler AN / AYK-13 weapons control, SU-128A Head Up Display, Hughes ARBS (Angle Rate Bombing System) and an ASN-130 inertial navigation system. They also had an OBOGS (On-Board Oxygen Generating System) oxygen generator.

Like the AV-8S, the AV-8B’s mission was to support the Marine Corps; but by having greater autonomy, load capacity and operating systems, it allowed to carry out the mission more efficiently.

The aircraft features 6 underwing supports, for a total of 4,175 kg of weapons, which include all types of bombs, MK-82 and MK-83 free fall (454 kg), Snakeye braked bombs.

As fixed armament, the Harrier II is equipped with a 25mm multi-tube GAU-12 gun. caliber housed in a nacelle under the fuselage, with 300 rounds in the hopper.

Among the novelties compared to previous models, the AV-8B can carry air-ground AGM-65 E / F Maverick anti-tank missiles, guided by infrared or TV.

It can also carry GBU-12 and GBU-16 laser-guided bombs, although this requires a laser designator.

Another option is the rocket launchers, LAU-10, LAU-8, LAU-61 and LAU-68, with rockets of various calibers, ranging from 68 mm. To 127 mm.

Like the AV-8S, the Harrier II is also used as a defense fighter, by incorporating 2 aim-9L Sidewinder missiles, which the aircraft also carries as self-defense in air-to-ground missions, and close support. Additionally, for self-defense, it can be equipped with the Sanders AN / ALQ-164 ECM pods and the Litton AN / ALR-67 radar alerter.

Despite the increase in internal fuel, and the ability to take off from the deck of the Príncipe de Asturias ship without the use of vertical take-off, the Spanish AV-8Bs can be equipped with a fuel tank at two points under the wings to extend their radius. of action; also, the Harrier II is equipped with a retractable flight refueling probe.

The AV-8Bs were upgraded to the AV-8B Plus version with a radar and new equipment. The 4 AV-8Bs that have not been updated are of the day attack model, as they can only operate during the day. However, the Navy is considering the modernization of these devices to the night attack model with the ability to fight in any weather condition.

The Navy also purchased a TAV-8B advanced trainer, based on the AV-8B.

4. Technical characteristics of the AV-8B:

  • Type: Embarked close support and attack aircraft.

  • Crew: 1 pilot.

  • Wingspan: 9.25 meters.

  • Length 14.12 meters.

  • Total height: 3.35 meters.

  • Wing area: 22.18 m².

  • Empty weight: 6,336 kilograms.

  • Maximum takeoff weight: 14,061 kg. or 8,596 in vertical takeoff.

  • Payload: Up to 4,899 kilograms.

  • Maximum speed: 1,065 km / h at sea level.

  • Maximum range: 3,600 km with auxiliary tanks or 870 km. on an attack mission.

  • Fuel: 3,519 kg and up to 3,000 more with 2 auxiliary tanks.

  • Maximum ceiling: 15,240 meters.

  • Powerplant: 9,750 kg Rolls Royce F402-RR-406A.


This Harrier is a development of the AV-8B model made by the United States, Spain and Italy.

Despite the similarities to the previous model, the new Harrier incorporates an entirely new, larger fuselage.

In addition, new wing fuel tanks were installed, and a new Rolls-Royce F402-RR-408 engine with almost 11 tons of thrust.

However, the biggest difference is the radome, which houses an AN / APG-65 radar, with several modes: air-to-air, air-surface, tracking and mapping. The radar is one of the best in the world, it is an advanced multi-mode and all-weather system, giving the Harrier II Plus increased day / night capability over the previous model.

In addition, a FLIR AN / AAR-51 was installed, located in a fairing above the nose. This device provides an infrared image of the terrain, which is shown to the pilot on the HUD (Head Up Display), or on one of the cockpit screens. During night missions, the pilot has AN / AVS-9 ANVIS night vision goggles, compatible with the aircraft’s cockpit and instrumentation.

Eight units of the new Plus version were purchased and five AV-8Bs were updated. All these aircraft belong to the 9th squadron, along with the remaining 4 AV-8Bs.

Like the previous model, the AV-8B + has 6 under-wing stations, and is equipped with the same gun as the AV-8B.

Their armament is much more varied: MK-82, MK-83 and MK-84 free fall bombs, Snakeye braked bombs, rockets of various caliber and Mavericks air-to-ground missiles, GBU-10, GBU-12 laser-guided bombs and GBU-16.

The APG-65 radar allows it to carry the modern AIM-120A / B AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile) missiles, giving it interception capacity beyond visual range.

For self-defense, this new version has an ALE-39 tube decoy dispenser, with six pieces of equipment installed in each aircraft, two on each rear and upper side of the fuselage. Each is capable of launching 180 rounds of flares and countermeasures. This aircraft also has a Sander AN / ALQ-167 active jammer.

The AV-8B II Plus is similar to the AV-8B except that it has been lengthened to 15.2 meters, its wingspan has decreased slightly to 9.24 meters and its new range in transits with auxiliary tanks increased to 3,830 kilometers.