|"I counted them out, and I counted them all back"|
|BBC reporter Brian Hanrahan|
After seeing service in the Falklands, the Gulf, the Balkans and Sierra Leone, the Royal Navy's five remaining Sea Harriers flew in formation to RAF Shawbury.
The Sea Harrier's quirky looks and combat effectiveness have made it one of the most innovative and treasured aircraft of the last fifty years. However, after numerous technical upgrades, the 1970s design is finally being withdrawn from service. The last five Sea Harriers from 801 Squadron will be stored at RAF Shawbury until a decision is made on their future.
The BAe Sea Harrier was originally developed from the Hawker-Siddeley Harrier which first entered service in 1969. With a variety of modifications the Sea Harrier was fully operational with the Royal Navy in 1980. Almost immediately the Sea Harrier saw action in the 1982 Falklands war.
|Taking off from HMS Invincible|
Although the Argentinian Mirage jets were considered superior, the Sea Harriers more than held their own as the first line British defence against the Mirage's devastating Exocet anti-ship missiles. The Harriers' greater agility, coupled with the latest American-built Sidewinder missile made for a lethal combination and Argentinian fighters failed to shoot down a single Sea Harrier during the conflict.
Numerous facelifts and technical upgrades were made to maintain the Harrier's relevance in an ever-changing period of warfare. However, 26 years after first entering service the iconic aircraft is bowing out with distinction, but six years before its direct successor the Joint Strike Fighter F-35C is due to be delivered.