Harrier in the Falklands

Mike Pryce

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Think Defence have posted a couple of interesting articles lately, with great pictures, on the more unusual bases used for Harriers in the Falklands.

http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2012/04/the-atlantic-conveyor-falklands30/

http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2012/04/harrier-forward-operating-base-falkland-islands/

Can't help agreeing with their view:

"I really don’t want this one to descend into an F35B v F35C argument but although we see often VSTOL as a niche capability at least in 1982 it proved its worth."
 
interesting info.
it does make one wonder how a group with no VTOL fighter option and no conventional carriers would have handled obtaining air superiority. you'd almost have to get permission from one of the local governments to operate your planes out of their bases, or risk trying ultra long duration flights with multiple in air refuelings..
 
It's 30 years, since VSTOL actually has proved it's worth, too long for the memories
of most politicians and even of many of the brass (who are very often just politicians
either, to my opinion). Problemfree permission for the use of airfields of "friendly" nations
seems to be regarded as standard, maybe as part of the "peace dividend", so why bother
about more flexibility, which has to be paid for by higher purchase and operating costs and
even by somewhat lower performances ?
But no, I don't want to see a conflict, where the only way to get air support fast is to build
hastily airstrips, that would be suitable only for helicopters and VSTOL aircraft.
 
Great stuff, thanks for sharing, a real lesson in both the fantastic flexibility of the V/STOL option and the terrible vulnerability of non-combat ships in a war zone. It begs the question, too, whether or not there there is an unexplored niche not only for V/STOL but also for pure STOL aircraft. Sweden's dispersed basing system in time of war led to the 500m short-field capability of the Saab JA37 Viggen and the 800m short-field capability of the JAS39 Gripen. A modern armed force that had even subsonic conventional attack aircraft with the capability to operate from short, rough fields could potentially use the forward operating base solution to good effect. Perhaps a modern Sud-Est SNCASE S.E.5000 Baroudeur...? ;D

http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675030290_wheel-less-jet_Barodeue_launch-cart_parachutes-of-cart-opens
 
Forgive me for being an annoying purist, but I think it's important to refer to these jet type of aircraft as STOVL (Short Takeoff Vertical Landing), rather than V/STOL. One of the things opponents of these type of aircraft do is to make a straw man comparison of the capabilities of a CTOL with an 8,000 ft. runway with a STOVL making a vertical takeoff. In the real world, they rarely do it, although the ability to do so remains a desirable design requirement because it imposes a "weight discipline" on the designers. The most common situations where VTO is actually used are:

1. Air shows
2. Places where it's easier and cheaper to fly the aircraft out than crane it (Atlantic Conveyor scenario).
3. James Bond and Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, and an episode of "The Saint" (where ironically it was called the "Osprey").


Regarding STOVL vs.STOL, depends on how you define STOL. The shorter the airfield requirement, the more complex and expensive you get. The STOVL aircraft can be made lighter and last longer because it doesn't need to be "beaten up" so much on takeoff and landing, and it's much simpler to get in and out,especially in, of that really short field. As one far wiser than me once said, "It's much easier to stop and land than it is to land and stop". ;)
 
One could similarly point out that supersonic combat aircraft rarely fly faster than Mach 1 and that bombers almost never actually drop bombs. Why is any of that important, or purist? It seems to me that if it's capable of V/STOL flight, it is a V/STOL aircraft, however it's operated. Now we can get on to serious matters like: is an aircraft carrying fare-paying passengers actually an airliner if it's operated on a hub and spoke route?
 
In the Falklands the Harriers did use VTO operationally - for getting off Atlantic Conveyor and off HMS Intrepid and Fearless after they were diverted to them when the San Carlos FOB was out of action.
 
taildragger said:
One could similarly point out that supersonic combat aircraft rarely fly faster than Mach 1 and that bombers almost never actually drop bombs. Why is any of that important, or purist? It seems to me that if it's capable of V/STOL flight, it is a V/STOL aircraft, however it's operated. Now we can get on to serious matters like: is an aircraft carrying fare-paying passengers actually an airliner if it's operated on a hub and spoke route?

With respect, I said I was being a purist.

Regarding your examples, they aren't really applicable, IMHO. In the case of supersonic combat aircraft and bombers, the qualities described are normal operations used in their design missions. Most fighters will fly most of their mission subsonically for range and wear reasons but flying supersonically is a normal operation for their mission. Ditto dropping bombs from a bomber. But referring to something they can do under very specific circumstances for a special occasion to the exclusion of their mission is not an accurate assessment.
To cite an example: An F-4 can exceed 98,000 feet flying a very special profile (Streak Eagle went over 103,000 ft). Yet we would not describe aircraft as 95,000 foot fighters. Similarly, a Harrier or F-35B can make vertical takeoffs. However in doing so they give up the ability to fly the missions for which they are designed (not because of fuel burn, as is commonly claimed, but because they have to offload so much weight in order to achieve the VTO). So, although they are capable of doing so, they are not really VTOL or V/STOL aircraft. Powered lift aircraft generally aren't because the reason for the powered lift is to get the aircraft to/from wingborne flight, not to operate in that speed range. In one sense, their powered lift capability serves the same function as landing gear. BTW, there are true V/STOLs, but they are rarely referred to as such. They're called helicopters and Tilt-Rotors.

I grant this seems like semantic blather. However, opponents of the STOVL concept love to describe the performance of these aircraft from a VTO, in order to make them look artificially bad. Since they tend to almost always use STO on operational missions, believers in the concept like me don't want to give the "other side" anything they can twist to use as ammunition.
 
harrier said:
In the Falklands the Harriers did use VTO operationally - for getting off Atlantic Conveyor and off HMS Intrepid and Fearless after they were diverted to them when the San Carlos FOB was out of action.

True. The Atlantic Conveyor case fits the scenario I gave of being easier and cheaper than using a crane. In the case of Intrepid and Fearless, when the San Carlos plating was damaged by a heavy landing by the helicopter, the two Sea Harriers made emergency landings on those ships because they lacked fuel to reach the carriers. To get back off the ships, the SHARs could not be given normal fuel loads (there was no way they were going to offload their precious AIM-9Ls), so were not capable of flying their full mission, which may be one reason the Argentines they were launched against got away. It's worthy of note that Harriers were not stationed onboard flight deck ships except the carriers (which had to stay out a ways from fear of Argentinian submarines that could have changed the course of the whole war) even though it would have shortened their reaction time.

Again, I freely admit this is a semantic discussion.
 
In related news:
http://news.usni.org/news-analysis/news/reagan-readied-us-warship-82-falklands-war-0
 
Ouch, you'd think the Naval Institute could do better than this:

At the time, the Royal Navy had deployed HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes to the Falklands. Each carrier fielded five vertical takeoff Sea Harriers armed with American Sidewinder missiles

The carriers had considerably more than five Sea Harriers each (12 on Hermes plus 8 on Invincible at the outset, and more joined later).

at least one Iwo Jima-class ship was qualified to operate the American version of the Sea Harrier, according to the 1982 edition of Combat Fleets of the World.

AV-8A/Harrier was not a version of Sea Harrier -- if anything, it was the other way around.
 

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