Boeing AV-8B Harrier II

AV-8B Harrier II
An AV-8B+ Harrier II Plus on the assault ship USS Nassau
RoleV/STOL ground-attack aircraft
ManufacturerMcDonnell Douglas / British Aerospace
Boeing / BAE Systems
First flight9 November 1978 (YAV-8B)
Introduction12 January 1985 (AV-8B)
June 1993 (AV-8B+)
Primary usersUnited States Marine Corps
Spanish Navy
Italian Navy
ProducedAV-8B/B+: 1981-2003
Unit costUS$30-35 million in 1997 (Harrier II Plus)
Developed fromHawker Siddeley Harrier
BAE Sea Harrier
VariantsBAE Harrier II

The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) AV-8B Harrier II is a family of second-generation vertical/short takeoff and landing or V/STOL ground-attack aircraft of the late 20th century. It is primarily used for light attack or multi-role tasks, typically operated from small aircraft carriers and large amphibious assault ships.

Although the AV-8B Harrier II shares the designation with the earlier AV-8A/C Harrier, the AV-8B was extensively redesigned from the previous-generation Harrier GR.1A/AV-8A/C by McDonnell Douglas. British Aerospace joined the improved Harrier project in the early 1980s, and it has been managed by Boeing/BAE Systems since the 1990s.

The AV-8B is used by the United States Marine Corps. The British Harrier GR7/GR9 versions are used by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. Versions are also used by NATO countries: Spain, and Italy. The Harrier models are commonly referred to as the "Harrier Jump Jet".


The Harrier II is notable as an example of US-UK cooperation and of Cold War defense achievements. Of note is the U.S aid funding early development of the Hawker P.1127 under the Mutual Weapons Development Program (MWDP), and the salvaging of what was left of the AV-16 Advanced Harrier Program by McDonnell Douglas, making the second-generation family possible.

McDonnell Douglas had restarted its own program which was nearing production status when British Aerospace (BAe) rejoined the program in the 1980s. They then jointly produced the aircraft. By the 1990s McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing, and BAe was merged into BAE Systems who went on to manage the family into the early 21st century.

A YAV-8B Harrier II tests a ski jump at Naval Air Station Patuxent River.

The AV-8B had its direct origins in a joint British-U.S. project (Hawker-Siddeley and McDonnell Douglas) for a much-improved Harrier aircraft, the AV-16. However cost over-runs in engine development on the part of Rolls-Royce and in the aircraft development caused the British to pull out of the program.

Interest remained in the U.S., so a less ambitious, though still expensive project was undertaken by McDonnell on their own catered to U.S. needs. Using knowledge gleaned from AV-16 development, though dropping some items such as further Pegasus development, the development work continued leading to the AV-8B for the U.S. Marine Corps. The aircraft was centered on the Marines' need for a light ground attack aircraft and focused on payload and range, instead of speed. In the early 1980s, the British rejoined the program and developed their own second generation Harrier from the U.S. design.

The first two YAV-8B prototypes were converted from existing AV-8A airframes.

Aircraft were built by McDonnell Douglas and British Aerospace (later BAE Systems), the latter at their Kingston and Dunsfold facilities in Surrey, in the UK.


An AV-8B from VMA-231 at Oshkosh 2003.

The AV-8B Harrier II is a subsonic attack aircraft. It features a single Rolls-Royce Pegasus turbofan engine with two intakes and four vectorable nozzles. It has two landing gear on the fuselage and two outrigger landing gear on the wings. The AV-8B is equipped with six wing and three fuselage hardpoints for carrying a 25 mm GAU-12 cannon, other weapons and external fuel tanks.

The first AV-8B Harrier IIs produced were commonly known as the "Day Attack" variant, and are no longer in service. Most were upgraded to Night Attack Harrier or Harrier II Plus standards, with the remainder being withdrawn from service.

The main attack avionics system is the Hughes nose-mounted AN/ASB-19.

Fielded in 1991, the Night Attack Harrier incorporated a Navigation Forward Looking Infrared camera (NAVFLIR). The cockpit was also upgraded, including compatibility with night vision goggles. Concurrent with the new version of the aircraft was introduced a more powerful Rolls Royce Pegasus II engine. It was originally intended to be designated AV-8D.

The Harrier II Plus is very similar to the Night Attack variant, with the addition of an APG-65 radar in an extended nose, making it capable of operating advanced missiles such as the AIM-120 AMRAAM. The radars were removed from early F/A-18 Hornets, which had been upgraded with the related APG-73. The Harrier II Plus is in service with the USMC, Spanish Navy, and Italian Navy.

The AV-8B cockpit was also used for the early trialling of Direct Voice Input (DVI) using a system developed by Smiths Industries.

The AV-8B (Harrier II Plus) also introduced beyond-visual-range missile capability.

Operational history

The AV-8B Harrier II is used by the military forces of three nations. The United States Marine Corps has operated the AV-8B and TAV-8B since 1985. The Spanish Naval air wing (Arma Aerea De La Armada) operates the AV-8B and AV-8B+, as well as a leased TAV-8B. The Italian Navy air wing (Aviazione di Marina Militare) also uses the AV-8B+ and TAV-8B. See BAE Harrier II for British Royal Air Force and Royal Navy usage.

Between 1969 and 2003, 824 Harrier variants were delivered. While manufacture of new Harriers concluded in 1997, the last aircraft (Harrier II Plus configuration) was delivered in December 2003 which ended the Harrier production line.


A US Marine Corps TAV-8B Harrier II.


Two prototypes converted from existing AV-8A airframes.

AV-8B Harrier II

"Day Attack" variant; no longer in service. Most were upgraded to one of the following two variants, while the remainder were withdrawn from service.

AV-8B Harrier II Night Attack

Fielded in 1991; incorporates a Navigation Forward Looking Infrared camera (NAVFLIR). Upgraded cockpit, including compatibility with night vision goggles. More powerful Rolls Royce Pegasus 11 engine.

AV-8B Harrier II Plus

An AV-8B Harrier II Plus from the Spanish aircraft carrier Principe de Asturias (R11) prepares to land.

Similar to the Night Attack variant, with the addition of an APG-65 radar. It is used by the USMC, Spanish Navy, and Italian Navy.

TAV-8B Harrier II

Two-seat trainer version.

EAV-8B Matador II

Company designation for the Spanish Navy version.


Italy Italy

An Italian TAV-8B Harrier II aboard Giuseppe Garibaldi (551).
  • Italian Navy has 15 AV-8B+ in service as of January 2009.
    • Gruppo Aerei Imbarcati "The Wolves"

Spain Spain

  • Spanish Navy has 13 AV-8B+ aircraft in use as of January 2009.
    • 09th Squadron

USA United States

  • United States Marine Corps has 99 AV-8B+ aircraft in operation as of January 2009.
    • VMA-211
    • VMA-214
    • VMA-223
    • VMA-231
    • VMA-311
    • VMA-513
    • VMA-542
    • VMAT-203
    • VX-31
    • VX-9

Specifications (AV-8B+ Harrier II Plus)

AV-8B Harrier II

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1 pilot
  • Length: 46 ft 4 in (14.12 m)
  • Wingspan: 30 ft 4 in (9.25 m)
  • Height: 11 ft 8 in (3.55 m)
  • Wing area: 243.4 ft (22.61 m)
  • Airfoil: supercritical airfoil
  • Empty weight: 13,968 lb (6,340 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 22,950 lb (10,410 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight:
    • Rolling: 31,000 lb (14,100 kg)
    • Vertical: 20,755 lb (9,415 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 Rolls-Royce F402-RR-408 (Mk 105) vectored-thrust turbofan, 23,500 lbf (105 kN)
AV-8 Harrier II being refueled by a KC-10 Extender.Data from Norden, Aerospaceweb


  • Maximum speed: .89 Mach (662 mph, 1,070 km/h) at sea level
  • Range: 1,200 nm (1,400 mi, 2,200 km)
  • Combat radius: 300 nmi (556 km)
  • Ferry range: 1,800 nmi (3,300 km)
  • Rate of climb: 14,700 ft/min (4,485 m/min)
  • Wing loading: 94.29 lb/ft (460.4 kg/m)


  • Guns: 1 GAU-12U "Equalizer" 25 mm (0.98 in) cannon (left pod) and 300 rounds of ammunition (right pod) (American/Spanish/Italian configuration)
  • Hardpoints: 7 with a capacity of 13,200 lb (STOVL) of stores, including gravity bombs, cluster bombs, napalm canisters, laser-guided bombs, AGM-65 Maverick or AGM-84 Harpoon missiles, a LITENING targeting pod, up to four AIM-9 Sidewinder or similar-sized infrared-guided missiles. Radar equipped AV-8B+ variants can carry up to four AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles. An upgrade program is currently fitting airframes with wiring and software to employ 1760 bus-based smart weapons, such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions.


  • APG-65