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The British Aerospace Sea Harrier is a naval short take-off and vertical-landing/vertical take-off and landing jet fighter, reconnaissance and attack aircraft, a development of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier.

300px-SeaHarrier

It first entered service with the Royal Navy in April 1980 as the Sea Harrier FRS1 and became informally known as the "Shar".[1]Unusual in an era in which most naval and land-based air superiority fighters were large and supersonic, the principal role of the subsonic Sea Harrier was to provide air defence of Royal Navy aircraft carriers.

The Sea Harrier served in the Falklands War, both of the Gulf Wars, and the Balkans conflicts; on all occasions it mainly operated from aircraft carriers positioned within the conflict zone. Its usage in the Falklands War was its most high profile and important success, where it was the only fixed-wing fighter available to protect the British Task Force. The Sea Harriers shot down 20 enemy aircraft during the conflict with one lost to enemy ground fire. They were also used to launch ground attacks in the same manner as the Harriers operated by the Royal Air Force.

The Sea Harrier was marketed for sales abroad, but by 1983 India was the only operator other than Britain after sales to Argentina and Australia were unsuccessful.[2][3] A second, updated version for the Royal Navy was made in 1993 as the Sea Harrier FA2, improving its air-to-air abilities and weapons compatibilities, along with a more powerful engine; this version continued manufacture until 1998. The aircraft was withdrawn early from Royal Navy service in March 2006 and replaced in the short term by the Harrier GR9, now itself retired, although the intended long term replacement is the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. The Sea Harrier is in active use in the Indian Navy, although it will eventually be replaced by the Mikoyan MiG-29K. Although withdrawn from active Royal Navy service, Sea Harriers are used to train naval aircraft handlers at the Royal Navy School of Flight Deck Operations.[4]

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