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Published on: 09 February 2012
The New Year has got off to a flying start at the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford with the arrival of a Harrier GR.9A serial number ZG477. This revolutionary vertical take-off, multi-role combat aircraft is now on display to visitors within the Museum’s Warplanes collection.
The Harrier GR.9A is a single seat, multi-role combat aircraft, capable of operating in extreme environments, at night, low level and from a variety of locations including deployed air bases and aircraft carriers. One of its more unique and well known features is the ability to take-off and land vertically. Fitted with a Rolls-Royce Pegasus engine, the aircraft is over 46ft in length, has a wingspan of 30ft and could reach a top speed of 661mph.
The first Harriers entered RAF service in 1969. This made Royal Air Force the first air force in the world to use this revolutionary aircraft and allowed the Service to access areas normally off limits to other aircraft. Before being withdrawn from RAF service in December 2010, Harriers were used by the RAF in close air support roles and were usually employed in direct support of ground troops. Also used for low or medium-level attacks using precision-guided, freefall or retarded bombs, Harriers were equipped with a variety of weapons including laser and GPS-guided bombs, infa-red missiles, cluster munitions and general-purpose bombs.
The Harrier GR.9A ZG477 now on display at the RAF Museum entered RAF service in August 1990 as a Harrier GR.7. It was initially stationed in Germany with No. 4 Squadron before being based in Turkey following the Kurdish uprising against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. In 1993 the Harrier force, including ZG477 took over policing the Northern Exclusion Zone in Iraq from Jaguar aircraft. The three Harrier Squadrons (No. 1, 3 and 4) were rotated on a regular basis until 1995.
In 1999 Harrier ZG477 was based in Italy with No.1 Squadron during Operation Allied Force. The objective was to degrade and damage the military and security structure that Serbian President Milosevic used to depopulate and destroy the Albanian majority in the province of Kosovo. Upgraded to a Harrier GR.9A in 2004, ZG477 was fitted with a more powerful Pegasus engine and a terrain referenced navigation system as part of an Integrated Weapons Programme (IWP).
Between 2008 and 2009 it saw active service in Afghanistan along with seven other Harriers that were continuously available, with Missions flown in pairs, two pairs on day tasks and one pair at night. The main area of operations was over Helmand Valley, supporting UK Army and Royal Marines as well as other coalition troops.
On the 15th December 2010 all Harriers were grounded after a farewell formation flight, following defence budget cuts. In twenty years of RAF service, Harrier ZG477 ended its career with No.1 Squadron after completing 4,191.25 flying hours and 3,969 landings.
Al McLean, RAF Museum Cosford Curator says:
“We are delighted to be selected as one of only two museums to receive this final example of a uniquely innovative aircraft with a distinguished history. It enhances our display of Warplanes.”
Other aircraft due to arrive at the Museum later this year include the EAP and the Dornier Do-17. The Museum is open daily from 10am and admission is free of charge. For more information on the Museum please call 01902 376200.
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