This lecture will address the birth of the Harrier’s predecessors at a time of uncertainty over the future of manned combat aircraft and the continuing efforts by those who believed in their validity. The presenter will describe the development of the aircraft dispersed concepts of operation which went on to serve the country superbly at times of need. Jock will touch on the conflicting views within the Ministry of Defence in 1976 over the options for enhancing the Royal Air Force offensive support front line when the policy was to allow the Harrier Force to run down by the late 1980s. However, a combination of circumstances subsequently led to a change in policy. The ways in which common sense prevailed and how the Service(s) gained an enhanced capability which served the country well until its premature withdrawal in 2010 will also be outlined.
Before becoming a Harrier pilot Jock Heron had flown Mach 2 fighters with three air forces, namely the Lightning with the RAF, the Mirage 3 with the Armee de l’air and the F-105 with the United States Air Force following which he served as a staff officer in the OR(Air) branch from 1967 to 1970 with responsibility for the birth of Tornado. Jock flew Harriers as a flight commander at RAF Wildenrath from 1972 to 1975 and from 1978 to 1980 as commander of the Operations Wing at RAF Gutersloh. Between these tours he served as the Harrier air staff officer in the Ministry of Defence with responsibility for the capability of the force, and from 1980 to 1982 as a staff officer at HQ RAF Germany with specific responsibility for the operational support of the aircraft at his old station. His unbroken ten year association with the first generation aircraft provides an appropriate background for his talk on the RAF Harrier during the Cold War.
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