Last Harrier takes off from Ark Royal

The last Harrier jump jets took off from HMS Ark Royal yesterday. Click here to watch video footage on the BBC website.

The four Harrier GR9′s effectively marked the end of naval aviation as we know it, by taking off from the soon to be decommissioned flagship in the North Sea. The last take off comes over 30 years since the first Sea Harrier landed on the deck of a Royal Navy warship, and 28 years since the Sea Harrier was at the forefront of the fight to retake the Falkland Islands.

Lt Cdr James Blackmore was the last Harrier pilot to take off from the iconic ski-jump:

“It is amazing. I watched a Harrier hovering over Chatham dockyard when I was eight years old and I am now fortunate enough to be flying the Harrier today… It’s an amazing aircraft, superb to fly and just very enjoyable.”

Captain Jerry Kyd said there was a tear in his eye when the last Harrier left. He showed extraordinary tact in the following statement:

“It was an emotional moment and also one of real pride as we look back over 25 years service to Queen and country… No naval officer wants to see any ship decommissioned early and she is a fine vessel and she has a fine history. She is at the peak of her efficiency but one understands that very difficult decisions have to be made across government.”

I wonder what Captain Kyd REALLY thinks?

Petty Officer Andrew Collins, 26, from Glasgow, described the situation in the usual directness of the British sailor:

“HMS Ark Royal is like the girlfriend you hate and you only realise you loved her when she has binned you.”

After a short visit to Hamburg in Germany, HMS Ark Royal is due to enter Portsmouth Harbour for the last time on Friday 3 December. Port movements are only announced 24 hours in advance, but looking at the high tides that day, I would predict that she will arrive sometime around 9am or shortly after. Expect a Harrier flypast and tugs spraying water cannons, as well as huge crowds thronging old Portsmouth.

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20 Comments

Filed under defence, Dockyard, event, Falklands War, Navy, News

20 responses to “Last Harrier takes off from Ark Royal

  1. John Erickson

    Oh, how I wish I could be there! I know I can look forward to photos or clips that you’ll find, James – thank you in advance. What a sad thing – let’s hope it is just a brief hiatus, and not the end of the Fleet Air Arm’s glorious tradition – may the promises of a rebirth in 10 years not be forgotten like so many other political statements by so many politicians!

  2. x

    I can’t watch it. I have today’s Telegraph because there is a good photo’ story covering the event. But I can’t look at it. I am not embarrassed to say I am close to tears over this.

    Managed to find money for the ruddy Irish…….

    • John Erickson

      X- Is the picture the shot of two Harriers banking over the flight deck? (Sorry to make you look, my friend, but I would like to see the shot, no matter how heart-breaking we both find it.) It’s not even on the first page of the website – but Sarah Palin is. Well, I guess that works – don’t show the photo of two jets, but show a photo of an even greater source of hot air and offensive outputs……

  3. John Erickson

    One other item pops to mind. If the carrier jets go away, what happens if Britain needs to launch air support from a borrowed overseas base, in a country that disagrees with Britain’s policies? The obvious answer is in-flight refueling – and that raises an even thornier question. With all the political nonsense surrounding America’s KC-X program to replace its’ aging KC-135 tankers, if Britain needs to do more aerial refueling, could this result in behind-the-scenes pressure from Britain to push forth the Airbus/EADS replacement offer? I’d be interested to hear viewpoints from you good English folk!

  4. Ans = we’d be screwed! Fortunately our politicians can see into the future. The words indecent haste come to mind.

    Still, got to cut back so we can bail out the Eurozone!

    • John Erickson

      WEBF- Eloquent, my good man, very eloquent! ;) Seriously, I wasn’t looking so much for an answer to air strikes, as I was whether losing the bases for said strikes would lead the British government to lean on the US government to buy the A330 tanker versus the Boeing 767 version. It’s hard to get good debate here – the “buy American” hysteria is so shrill, and then comes the revelation that the USAF sent EADS data to Boeing and vice versa! I just want to hear a debate without people SCREAMING on both sides of the issue! (I’ve given up on US TV – we get BBC News on BBC America and a daily news feed from Deutsche Welle TV, and the rest from the Internet.)

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