JOINT FORCE Harrier and BAE Systems rolled out the Harrier GR.9 at RAF Cottesmore, Rutland, on October 11, in a ceremony marking the type’s front-line service entry with 1 (F) Squadron.
The £500 million improvement programme involves upgrading all 60 Harrier GR.7s and nine T.lOs to GR.9 and T.12 standard respectively, extending the Harrier’s effectiveness until the F-35 Lightning II enters service, currently planned for 2018.
Conversion work is being undertaken by BAE Systems on the Joint Update and Maintenance Programme (JUMP) line at Cottesmore. On October 11, 24 single-seat GR.9s and one two-seat T.12 were in RAF service. The type had been formally accepted into service at the end of September, the target date.
Nine more GR.7s and a single T.10 were on the JUMP line at the ceremony. BAE Systems expects to complete the remaining 45 aircraft by 2009.
Harrier GR.9/T.12 conversion is being undertaken with an incremental technology insertion process. In March 2005, Capability A (the first increment) provided a training package for the GR.9, further enhanced to Capability Bl in February of this year.
The aircraft currently in service are operational with Capability B2+, which provides an improved inertial navigation system, ground proximity warning system and a better communication suite.
Capability C, to be introduced in December this year, will enable the 5001b (227kg) Paveway IV laser-guided bomb and the improved Rangeless Airborne Instrumentation Debriefing System to be used. The aircraft will also be equipped with the Successor Identification Friend or Foe system.
Finally, Capability D, due in September 2008, introduces the Brimstone anti-armour missile, the digital reconnaissance pod and on-aircraft simulated PGB training.
AFM spoke to Air Vice-Marshal David Walker, AOC 1 Group, about the operational deployment of the GR.9 to Afghanistan. He said: «We intend to deploy the GR.9 to theatre when 1 Squadron takes over from 800 Naval Air Squadron. Whilst 1 Squadron is deployed, we will transition from GR.7 to the GR.9. That will not all happen on one particular day. As time passes, and as GR.9 aircraft build up, by the time 1 Squadron returns to the UK transition will be complete.»
No 1 (F) Squadron is currently-running a phased work-up programme of testing and integration to gain experience on the GR.9, which concludes in the New Year ahead of operational deployment.
No 20 (R) Squadron, the Harrier Operational Conversion Unit, based at RAF Wittering, Cambridgeshire, and 41 (R) Squadron, the RAF Fast Jet Weapons and Operational Evaluation Unit, also operates the Harrier GR.9.