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Bird of Prey or Weedy Sea Dragon. First Generation Twin Seat Harriers

When the Hawker Siddeley (from 1977 onwards British Aerospace or BAe) Harrier entered service in 1969 it looked very much like its avian namesake with its sharply pointed nose, shoulder mounted wings and rounded tail giving the appearance of a hunting bird of prey, although the twin seat version gave a rather different impression. In its T.4 form especially it looked more like a Weedy Sea Dragon with its extended tail and ventral strake, raised tail fin, more bulbous cockpit canopy, pair of 30mm ADEN cannon pods below the fuselage and Laser Rangefinder & Marked Target Seeker (LRMTS) nose. While the twin seat trainer variants of other contemporary fighters were often far sleeker than the single seaters, with the Harrier the opposite was the case, as the original leader of the design team, Sir Sydney Camm, did not hesitate to say.

Not unusually, provision of a twin seat dual control Harrier lagged behind that of the single seat fighter. The project itself dated back as far as 1957 and had progressed through the P.1127 and Kestrel programmes before the first Harrier GR.1 entered service in 1969. But a decision in 1966 to build a twin seat, dual control trainer meant that the first of these became operational only just over a year after the single seaters. Training of the first group of Harrier Instructors by the Harrier Conversion Team (HCT) involved a Hawker Hunter refresher course, flying the Westland Whirlwind helicopter to experience hover techniques and finally local familiarisation in a De Havilland Dove before their introduction to the single seat Harrier GR.1.

First flights in the Harrier were flown solo with an instructor following in a Hawker Hunter and it was generally considered not especially difficult to fly, although it was soon recognised as being somewhat unforgiving and had a high rate of acceleration that could easily catch the unwary. It was initially flown as a conventional fixed wing aircraft with skills gradually expanded to include its Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL) capabilities, although with student and instructor in different aircraft there was some degree of repetition in the process. The availability of the twin seater after about a year simplified this process and established a sound foundation for all Harrier training that followed.

First Generation Twin Seat Harriers Into Service

Until the Harrier building a twin seat trainer of a single seat fighter been relatively simple; chop off the single seat nose, add a new longer or wider one with two seats and make any minor aerodynamic adjustments as required. However in order that the Harrier trainer retained its signature V/STOL capabilities the aerodynamic adjustments required were far from minor. The location of the cockpit between the engine air intakes predicated a tandem design requiring not only a longer nose section to accommodate a second cockpit but also a much higher canopy to give the rear seater an effective forward view. In turn, and in order to maintain directional stability especially while the aircraft was in the hover, this much enlarged front section had to be balanced at the rear of the aircraft. This was achieved by relocating a longer and taller tail fin further back above the fuselage and an extended ventral tail strake below angled upwards and backwards towards a short tail cone. The Reaction Control Valves (RCV) were still located towards the tip of the stretched and ballasted tail. The end result was a combat capable twin seat Harrier with the same centreline and underwing pylons, optional pair of 30mm ADEN cannon and bolt-on In-Flight Refuelling Probe of the single seater. With the fuel/weight balance being a critical factor in V/STOL operations, the heavier twin seat versions had a built-in disadvantage even although the tail ballast and second seat could be removed in a war fighting situation.

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About Scale Aircraft Modelling

THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO In for review is the soon to be released Kinetic two seat Harrier. We have beer provided with an unboxed production sample in advance of its official appearance, so a massive thanks to Kinetic for providing the kit. Bear in mind that the kit has not hit the shelves of your favourite retailer so the usual caveat applies in regards to things changing before release. As far as Harriers go this is the first 1/48 mainstream injected moulded two seater of the famous jump jet, so an important release to say the least.