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AV-8B Harrier II

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Harrier

The AV-8B Harrier II.

The Hawker Siddeley Harrier was a Vertical Take-Off/Landing aircraft first developed by Great Britain in the 1960s, gaining great fame during the Falklands War. The Harrier still holds the reputation as being the world's first truly successful VTOL jet aircraft, and derivatives of the Royal Air Force version were later acquired by the United States Marine Corps (as the AV-8A) and the Spanish Navy (as the AV-8S) for use on their assault ships and light carriers.

History

The Harrier, upgraded with bigger wings and an uprated engine, became the Harrier II. In due course it went from daytime-only operations to all-weather-capable with the installation of a NAVigation Forward-Looking InfraRed (NAVFLIR) camera. McDonnell-Douglas manufactured the Marine Corps version as the AV-8B, later exporting it to the navies of Italy and Spain. The Harrier II, like its predecessor, is meant primarily to be a ground-attack aircraft although the users can outfit it with short-range air-to-air missiles. The Harrier has only one jet engine; the aircraft redirects jet thrust through four vectorable nozzles alongside the main body. This simple but effective design was what allows the Harrier to hover and even maneuver more effectively than conventional fighters. The engine had to be placed at the center of gravity, yet the wings had to be raised high to clear the four rotating exhausts, leading to the bicycle-style tandem landing gear with outrigger landing gear on the wings in order to provide adequate support to the weight distribution of the aircraft.

The fact that it only requires one engine also makes it far easier to maintain than other (failed) VTOL aircraft projects, but the Harrier can only takeoff vertically with a light payload at a high fuel consumption. More often than not, the Harrier employs STOVL, a combination of conventional takeoff technique and the use of engine thrust vectoring that requires only a quarter of the distance needed for conventional planes. This saves both on fuel and airfield space.

The current version of the Harrier is the AV-8B Harrier II Plus (+). Distinguishing it from previous models is the APG-65 radar, also used on the F/A-18 Hornet Fighter/Attack plane, giving it even greater flexibility, and the new Rolls-Royce F402-44-408, a more powerful engine than the previous F402-RR-406 granting 2000 lbs more thrust. Most aircraft serving the European navies and a large number of USMC examples have been upgraded to this standard; of the previous models, the day-only type is mostly phased out of frontline service.

The Manhattan Incident

See also: Tanker Incident and the Big Shell Incident

In 2009, a Marines-based[1] Harrier was stationed on the Big Shell's heleport, which was later used by the terrorist group Sons of Liberty to shoot down the helicopters that had inserted the Navy SEALs into the facility. Special forces operative Raiden found a C4 block attached to the landing gear of the Harrier, which he subsequently disarmed, but by the time he returned to the heliport to face Fatman the aircraft had gone. After destroying the trigger sensors for the planted Semtex explosives on the Shell 1-2 Connecting Bridge, Raiden was attacked by the Harrier, crewed by Vamp and Solidus Snake, and was forced to shoot it down with Stinger missiles. Solidus, however, was then rescued by a Metal Gear RAY in possession of the terrorists (presumably to be taken back to the then-submerged Arsenal Gear).

Raiden would briefly reference his taking down the Harrier nine years later, when asked by Courtney, although he claimed that he only managed to do it because it was in hover mode at the time.

Behind the scenes

The Harrier featured in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is a TAV-8B Harrier II, a radarless two seat training model. TAV-8Bs have only two hardpoints and are not combat capable, whilst the ingame Harrier has more than two hardpoints and is combat ready.

This Harrier later appears in Versus Battle.

"STRENGTHS:
Lethal Legendary SVTOL Jet Aircraft
WEAKNESSES:
VTOL Burns Fuel & Requires Light Load
FEATURED FACT:
Solidus Snake and Vamp used a Marine-version Harrier to attack Raiden during the Big Shell conflict
FEATURED GAME:
METAL GEAR SOLID: THE LEGACY COLLECTION
"
―Harrier's bio on Versus Battle

Weapons

  • The AIM-120C AMRAAM missile was originally designed to replace the AIM-7 Sparrow as a mid-range Air-to-Air combat missile on existing fighters. The Sparrow was a semi-active radar homing missile, which meant that an aircraft had to maintain a constant lock on an enemy target in order to hit. The AMRAAM is designed to fit into anywhere an AIM-7 can be carried, but it is a great deal lighter and now has its own built-in radar system, effectively making the missile a fire-and-forget weapon capable of homing in on a target without assistance (although the missile can still receive targeting information update from the launcher aircraft during its flight, a feature that increases its hit probability over long range). The U.S. Marine Corps Harriers are not cleared to carry the AIM-7 or the AMRAAM; Harriers used by European navies, however, do carry the AMRAAM. The TAV-8B featured in MGS2 in reality does not have a radar necessary to provide initial targeting data to the weapon; during the cutscene where the Harrier was encountered, the missiles were expended like unguided rockets. Also, the AMRAAM's ECM was reinforced so it wouldn't be tricked by sensor-disabling devices (such as chaff) during air combat, and also home in on the source of electronic countermeasures. However, it was not reinforced against sensor-disabling devices that are utilized in surface-to-air combat (such as chaff grenades).
  • The Air-to-Air missile normally carried by the Marine Corps Harrier is the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile (not seen in MGS2). The Sidewinder is also a fire-and-forget weapon, only it locks onto an enemy aircraft's heat signature rather than use a radar. The AIM-9 is a short-range 'dogfighting' missile reserved for close-in air combat engagements and thus does not have the range of the Sparrow or AMRAAM missiles. Marine Corps Harriers can carry up to four Sidewinders for combat air patrols.
  • The AGM-65 Maverick (not seen in MGS2) is the same air-to-surface missile used in the Persian Gulf conflict. It is a missile equipped with either a camera eye or a laser seeker mounted in its nosecone; in the latter configuration it is guided to its target by a laser designator carried by either the aircraft itself or another vehicle or person on the ground. For non-laser-guided versions, the camera eye can be either television-based (for daytime use) or of an imaging infrared type (for all-weather use).
  • The Mk.82 General Purpose Bomb (not seen in MGS2, but can be seen in The Document of Metal Gear Solid 2) is commonly found on U.S. attack aircraft. It is a lightweight munition at 500 pounds (227kg), second smallest in the Mk80 family of iron or 'dumb' (unguided) bombs first developed in the 1950s, and can be used against almost every kind of ground target. Apart from the baseline low-drag version, two "retarded" versions exist for use at very low altitude: the AIR version with its tailfins replaced with a ballute (balloon-parachute) as well as the Snakeeye version with the Mk15 folding tailfins, both deployed after being released to slow their descent and allow their carrier aircraft to escape bomb blasts. Marine Corps Harriers normally carry six Mk82 bombs when in the air-to-ground function.
  • The cluster bomb seen in MGS2 is the CBU-59 APAM (Anti-Personnel, Anti-Material) or Rockeye II Cluster bomb. The weapon is actually a large outer shell filled with 717 BLU-77 bomblets that shower shrapnel over a large area. It was designed as an antipersonnel successor to the older Mk20 Rockeye cluster bomb, as the older Mk20 was designed for antitank use.
  • The LAU-3 Rocket Launcher is a cylindrical 7-round rocket launcher first used by U.S. Air Force's F-5 "Skoshi Tiger." Its payload includes the Hydra-70 family of unguided rockets, first developed in the 1940s as an air combat weapon prior to the adoption of guided missiles and, now adopted as ground attack weapons, capable of using a variety of different warheads from high explosive and mine delivery to flechette and illumination rounds.
  • The centerline station of the American/Italian/Spanish Harrier II is commonly reserved for the GAU-12 Equalizer Gun Pod, which actually consists of one pod containing the gun itself and one pod that holds 300 rounds of ammunition. The GAU-12 is a 6-barrel 25mm Gatling Gun similar to that of the M61 Vulcan autocannon, but its heavier ammunitions afford the Harrier more punch in both ground attack and air combat scenarios than the 20mm guns normally found on other U.S. tactical aircraft or the AH-1 attack helicopters. The GAU-12 can employ Depleted Uranium rounds for increased penetration against armored targets.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Konami Computer Entertainment Japan (2001)
    The Colonel classified it as a Harrier that originally belonged to the Marines in an optional Codec conversation. In the same conversation, Raiden will also express suspicion about whether the Sons of Liberty were actually run-of-the-mill terrorists.

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