Did you know that the exhaust of the engine is so hot that it melts concrete?
A couple of weeks ago I finished Bob Marston's book 'Harrier Boys. Volume One. Cold War Through the Falklands 1969-1990' (2015). The Harrier is one of my most favourite military fighters. Why? Because it doesn't need a long and clean runway to take-off into the air and to land on the ground. It can fly vertically - and backwards! The technical term for this type of airplane is V/STOL. It's in my opinion the ultimate close air support (CAS) fighter for armies with lust for 'blitzkrieg'.
Unbeaten! The Harrier is one (of few) of the aircraft that have engaged in significant air combat but never been shot down in air to air combat (losses 0). They shot down themselves 21 aircraft in the air. Three were shot down by ground fire. Source: here.
Bob Marston was one of the Harrier boys. He wrote down his memories and of the other boys that flew in these aircraft too. He also documented a few stories of the supporting staff.
Two new insights for me from this book.
1. Falkland Islands. The Harrier force was well prepared for a war in Europe. An out-of-NATO operation in the South Atlantic was not envisaged. In fact, it had been ruled out in successive Defence White Papers. For the Falklands the British had to start from scratch, at very short notice and with small margins for protection.
2. Others fly Harriers too? A little conversation between an English and American crewchief. The British had 58 airmen for 8 Harriers and flew a "hundred" sorties a day. The Americans had 600 airmen for 12 Phantoms and flew six sorties a day. "He didn't openly call me a liar, but disbelief was written all over his face. (...) He then clearly saw that one of my aircraft had flown 12 sorties a day, and the other one 13. Talk about impressed, he asked how we managed with so few airmen to an aircraft, so we explained the aircraft trades to him. He couldn't believe that one rigger did the whole aircraft, undercarriage, wheels, tyres and brakes."
This picture may be not very sensational but this is what a training field site looks like. With drive-through hides and connected pad and strip. A strip that can stand the heat of the engine exhaust.