Aircraft of the Month: AV-8 Harrier
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Aircraft of the Month: AV-8 Harrier

October 14, 2019

[upbeat music] – Hi, I’m Eric Boehm,
curator of Aviation here at the Intrepid Sea, Air,
and Space Museum, and today we’re gonna talk about one of the more unique airplanes
in our collection, the vertical and short
takeoff and landing capable AV-8 Harrier. The genesis of the Harrier
really goes back about 60 years when the Hawker company
in England wanted to design a fighter plane that could take off
and land vertically, yet still had the performance
of a modern day fighter jet. They didn’t get much support
from the British government, so they went at it alone. The United States kind of helped
with engine development, and eventually, by 1960,
they had a prototype, the P.1127. The U.S. Marine Corps had great
interest in this airplane, ’cause it would’ve been perfect
for close air support and ground attack. Development and testing carry
through the 1960s, and by 1969, the first Harriers
went into service with the RAF. A couple years later,
the U.S. Marine Corps took delivery of
their first Harriers. And what’s really unique
about the Harrier is the way it flies. It has to take off and land
vertically. And so there’s a couple of
systems on this airplane that are very unique. The first one
is the ducted jets. And we see right here
there’s two ducts on this side and there’s two
on the other side. Now, there’s a conventional–
somewhat conventional– turbofan engine inside here. From the thrust
from the turbofan, it’s ducted out these ducts. This can rotate downwards. Actually, it has
a rotation from 0– for straight and level flight– down to 98 degrees,
beyond vertical, so you can actually
fly backwards a little bit. The other unique feature
about the Harrier is the reaction control system. Now, you’re in the hover,
but how do you control? You have yaw and pitch and roll. Well, here we see a duct. There were ducts like this
on the nose, the tail, and on each wingtip. And off of that single engine– that single engine is
powering the main ducts for hovering flight
and for forward thrust– but tapped off of that to the
wingtips, the nose, and the tail is the reaction control system, and the pilot was able to
control little puffs in order to give him
full three axis control. As the main ducts are rotated
to the aft position, the airplane starts
flying forward. It becomes
a conventional airplane, capable of speeds close to
700 miles an hour. The newer version of
the Harrier, the AV-8B, is still in service with
the U.S. Marine Corps, but is destined to be replaced
by the newest fighter in the U.S. arsenal, the F-35. For more behind the scenes
videos, visit

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