Sea Harrier FA2 (Fighter Attack) is a single-seat, multi-purpose combat aircraft, capable of operating in round-the-clock, all-weather conditions, and with V/STOL (Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing) capabilities.
It has been designed as the fleet defence fighter (optimised for air-to-air combat, with secondary missions of surveillance, air-to-sea and air-to-ground attack) and remains in service with the British Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. Currently Harriers operate from decks of the Invincible class aircraft carriers.
FA2 variant was designed as the successor of the FRS1 Sea Harrier (Fighter/Reconaissance). The FRS1 had participated in the Falklands War, shooting down 23 Argentine aircraft. By the end of eighties, however, its combat capabilities had proven unsatisfactory, mainly because of its poor radar and lack of medium range air-to-air missiles. Hence, an upgraded variant of Sea Harrier was ordered. The design team focused on improving the aircraft’s avionics and armament.
The FA2 prototype was first flown on 19th September 1988. The first landing on carrier deck (‘Ark Royal’) took place on 7th November 1990. The FA2’s regular service commenced in 1993. 31 FA2s are in fact upgraded Sea Harrier FRS1s, the remaining 18 are factory-fresh machines.
The new Harrier is fitted with the nose-mounted GEC-Marconi Blue Vixen multi-mode, pulse-Doppler, multi-target radar. This powerful device features TV raster daylight viewing tube, which conveys flight information, as well as radar data, to pilot. Its eleven operational modes allow, among others, to simultaneously launch and track onto individual targets beyond visual range up to four AIM-120 AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles). The AMRAMM’s own avionics systems can assimilate track-while-scan information from the Blue Vixen radar while en route without alerting the target, and switch to its own active homing for the final stages of interception. The FA2 is also equipped with GEC-Marconi Sky Guardian 200 radar warning receiver and AN/ALE-40 chaff/flare dispenser. Radio communication is provided by GEC-Marconi AD-120 VHP and multi-channel Magnavox AN/ARC-164 UHF. The IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) system is either the Allied-Signal AN/APX-100 Mk. 12 or the Plessey PTR 466 D-band IFF transponder. The cockpit is fitted with head-down multi-role displays (HDD) and a head-up display (HUD). The navigation systems include AD 2770 TACAN tactical air navigation set and MADGE Microwave Airborne Digital Guidance Equipment. The Royal Navy Sea Harrier FA2 update programme included the fitting of a reversionary IPG-100F global positioning system.
The rear section of the new Harrier is 35 cm longer than its predecessor’s. The upgraded FRS1s received entire new tail sections instead of lengthening the existing airframe. The extra space is occupied by avionics systems.
Curiously, the Sea Harrier FA2 has no built-in armament. It has provision for mounting two podded Aden 30 mm canons. The rocket weaponry includes AIM-120 AMRAAM guided medium range missiles and close range air-to-air AIM-9L/M Sidewinders. The FA2 can be armed with the “Sea Eagle” anti-ship missile (a fire-and-forget sea-skimming missile with active radar homing and a range of over 50 miles), as well as ALARM anti-radiation missiles. Obviously, the aircraft can also drop classic bombs and fire unguided missiles.
This set of photographs shows Sea Harriers FA2 of 801. NAS (Naval Air Squadron) during joint Air Defence Exercise with the Polish Air Force in September 2005, when they were stationed at 8. ELT (Polish 8th Tactical Squadron) airbase in Mirosławiec.
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