Naval Air: The Great Harrier Shortage

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April 5,2008: The British Royal Navy's two carriers were built to carry sixteen Harrier GR9 aircraft each. Normally they carry eight, but because of the reduction of the Harrier force (two dozen older Sea Harriers were retired in 2006), and merging Royal Air Force and Royal Navy Harriers into a joint task force, plus the demand for Harriers in Afghanistan, and aircraft sidelined for maintenance and upgrades, there is a shortage. Thus one British carrier recently put to sea with only four Harriers. The Royal Navy is building two new 65,000 ton carriers, to replace the three current 21,000 ton carriers (one of them inactive and in reserve). Britain is buying American F-35C vertical takeoff aircraft, and the new carriers will carry 24 F-35Cs each. But these aircraft, and the new carriers, won't be in service for another 6-8 years. So the Harrier shortage will be a problem for a while.

 


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