Introduction: The Sea Harrier FA.2 was an upgrade of the famous FRS.1, incorporating various improvements over its predecessor, thus making it even more efficient at its job: providing air defence over a Royal Navy fleet, as well as bringing some new capabilities not previously seen on the FRS.1.
Description: By the late Eighties, the British began to upgrade their FRS.1s to a higher standard, in order to increase their combat effectiveness. This upgrade was originally known as the FRS.2, but the designation was quickly changed to FA.2. The Sea Harriers were refurbished, and were provided with the newer, more advanced Blue Vixen radar and fire control system, thus allowing to use the AIM-120 AMRAAM, making it the first British aircraft to have this capability. This combination gave the FA.2 a BVR (Beyond Visual Range) capability, essentially allowing it to engage targets before there are visible to the naked eye. All these new systems required the aircraft to be slightly longer than its predecessor, with the FA.2 being 35 centimeters longer than the FRS.2. The most obvious difference is the larger, more rounded nose, which house the Blue Vixen’s array. The FA.2 retained its AIM-9Ls, the aircraft’s fighting edge, that proved its mettle in the Falklands. The aircraft was also provided with the capability to carry twin ADEN cannons underneath the aircraft in a pod, a standard feature on the Harrier family, as well as the BAE Sea Eagle anti-ship missile, ALARM anti-radiation missile and various unguided iron bombs, thus widening the use of the Sea Harrier considerably. The aircraft also received two AN/ALE 40 countermeasures dispensers, as well a Marconi Sky Guardian RWR, and an improved nav/attack system . Small changes were made to the wings as well, and the engine was changed to the Pegasus 106, a rebuild and refinement of the previous Pegasus 104 fitted to the FRS.1. The first FA.2s were 33 conversions of FRS.1s, with a further 18 new-builds being delivered between 1995 and 1998, with the last being delivered on the 24th December, 1998, as the last “fully British” Harrier.
Service: The Sea Harrier FA.2 first saw combat in Bosnia, when it was deployed in the 1992-1995 war, launching raids on Serb forces, as well as providing air support for friendly forces. On 16th April, 1994, a Sea Harrier from 801 NAS, from HMS Ark Royal, was shot down by the Army of the Republika Srpska while attempting to bomb some tanks, by an Igla-1 missile. The pilot, Lieutenant Nick Richardson, ejected, and landed in allied Bosnian territory. FA.2s were once again present over the skies of Yugoslavia in 1999, during Operation Allied Force, operating from HMS Invincible. Sea Harriers were also deployed alongside other British forces to Sierra Leone, in 2000. The Sea Harrier tended to suffer from the high ambient temperatures in the Middle East, with restrictions placed on fuel and payload weights, especially in regards to the return of the aircraft to the carrier.
Retirement: In 2002, the Ministry of Defence announced that the Sea Harrier was to be retired and replaced by 2006, by Harrier GR.7s. The last Sea Harrier was decommissioned on 29th March, 2006. At the time, it was thought that the F-35B would be in service by 2012, and the MoD stated that significant expenditure would be required to keep the aircraft in service, as they were requiring new upgrades and refurbishments, something that was not deemed necessary for a service life that was only meant to last six more years. Sea salt and corrosion had taken its toll on the fleet, and the cost of refurbishment simply was not worth it. The Harrier Gr.7s would suffice for the time being. However, the Harrier GR.7s were retired themselves shortly after in 2010, and the F-35B would arrive until very close to a decade later. Despite this, a few Sea Harriers helped their successor enter service by being retained for ground handling training; even in retirement, they serve. There were also recent announcements that a Sea Harrier may even return to the skies. So who knows? We might be able to see a Sea Harrier in its natural habitat once again in the not too distant future.
Performance and Weaponry:
Specifications (Sea Harrier FA.2):
Length: 46 ft 6 in (14.17 m)
Wingspan: 25 ft 3 in (7.70 m)
Height: 12 ft 2 in (3.71 m)
Wing area: 201.1 sq ft (18.68 m2)
Empty weight: 14,585 lb (6,616 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 26,200 lb (11,884 kg) STO / 17,620 lb (7,992 kg) VTO
Maximum fuel weight, internal: 5,182 lb (2,351 kg)
630 imp gal (757 US gal; 2,864 l) internal fuel in 5 fuselage and two wing integral tanks; provision for 2 x 100 imp gal (120 US gal; 455 l) combat drop tanks or 2 x 190 imp gal (228 US gal; 864 l) combat drop tanks or 2 x 330 imp gal (396 US gal; 1,500 l) ferry drop tanks on inboard wing pylons only
Powerplant: 1 x Rolls-Royce Pegasus 106 vectored thrust turbofan engine, 21,500 lbf (96 kN) thrust with water injection
618 kn (711 mph, 1,145 km/h) / M0.94 at sea level
578 kn (665 mph; 1,070 km/h) / M0.97 at altitude
400 nmi (460 mi, 740 km) high-altitude intercept with 3 minutes combat and reserves for VL
250 nmi (288 mi; 463 km) for ground attack missions
Ferry range: 1,740 nmi (2,000 mi, 3,220 km)
Service ceiling: 51,000 ft (16,000 m)
g limits: +7.8 -4.2
Rate of climb: 50,000 ft/min (250 m/s)
Wing loading: 130.28 lb/sq ft (636.1 kg/m2)
Take-off run STO: 1,000 ft (305 m) at MTOW without ramp
Combat profiles from carrier with 12° ramp at ISA + 15°C, with 20 kn (23 mph; 37 km/h) WOD
Combat air patrol:
Up to 1 hour 30 minutes on station at 100 nmi (115 mi; 185 km) carrying 4 x AMRAAM or 2 x AMRAAM + 2 x ADEN cannon + 2 x 190 imp gal (228 US gal; 864 l) combat drop tanks ; Deck run 450 ft (137 m)
Low-level cover of 130,000 sq nmi (172,158 sq mi; 445,888 km2) at a radius of 525 nmi (604 mi; 972 km), out and return at medium level carrying 2x ADEN cannon + 2x 190 imp gal (228 US gal; 864 l) combat drop tanks ; Deck run 350 ft (107 m)
(hi-lo-hi) Radius of action 200 nmi (230 mi; 370 km) to missile launch carrying 2x BAe Sea Eagle + 2x ADEN cannon ; Deck run 300 ft (91 m)
Deck-launched against M0.9 target at 116 nmi (133 mi; 215 km), or a M1.3 target at 95 nmi (109 mi; 176 km), with initial radar detection at 230 nmi (265 mi; 426 km), at 2 minute alert status carrying 2x AMRAAM.
Guns: 2 x 30 mm (1.18 in) ADEN cannon pods under the fuselage, with 130 rounds each
Hardpoints: 4 x under-wing pylon stations, and 1 fuselage pylon on centerline plus 2 attach points for gun pods with a total capability of 8,000 lb (3,630 kg) of payload.
Rockets: 4 x Matra rocket pods with 18 SNEB 68 mm rockets each
ALARM anti-radiation missile (ARM)
Sea Eagle anti-ship missile
Bombs: A variety of unguided iron bombs
Ferranti Blue Vixen all-weather airborne radar
BAE Systems AD2770 Tactical Air Navigation System
Thales MADGE Microwave Airborne Digital Guidance Equipment
Allied Signal AN/APX-100 mk12 IFF
Marconi Sky Guardian 200 RWR
2 x BAE Systems AN/ALE 40 chaff/flare dipensers
In service: 1978-2006 (Royal Navy - Fleet Air Arm)
Conclusion: Although this aircraft is still a bit too modern for the game right now, the recent announcement of 4th Generation jets means that the FA.2 may soon find its place in game, where I’m certain it will prove to be a beautiful aircraft to fly, and a tough competitor too. I do apologise if this suggestion was a bit short, I’m extremely busy right now, and it was only now that I had some time. If I left out any details, I do ask you to tell me below, and I will add them to this post.