Harrier T4 XW271

Harrier XW271 is a T.Mk4 twin seat ground attack and reconnaissance fighter and trainer.

  • Harrier XW271 (First batch of T.Mk.2 XW264 – XW272 & XW925) (1971)
  • Upgraded to T.Mk4 Standard in 1973 with 21,500 lbf Rolls Royce Pegasus 11/Mk.103 engine, LRMTS and RWR.
  • Acquired by Australian Aerospace Company Advanced VTOL Technologies (AVT) in 2015 for restoration to ground-run condition

The Harrier has entered its 48th year of operational service. Although no longer in service in the UK, the USMC currently plans to operate the aircraft until around 2025. A remarkable feat for an aircraft designed in the 1960s and real tribute to Hawkers and Bristol (later Rolls Royce), the developers of the unique Pegasus thrust vectoring engine.

The Harrier has been the world’s only truly successful VTOL fighter. It was developed in response to a NATO requirement for a platform capable of dispersed operations, immune from runway attack, and capable of operating close to the front line from disused roads and fields. The combined high power to weight ratio thrust vector capability soon revealed the aircraft’s ability to out-climb and out-manoeuvre most other contemporary fighters of the time including F5s, F4s and F15s. The Harrier soon found its way into the Royal Navy where it proved itself in the Falklands War in conditions that no other aircraft could operate. It has since proved itself in numerous other operations around the globe. Only now, some 50 years later, does the F35 JSF stand to challenge the Harrier’s unique operational capability.

Having first flown on May 26, 1971, Harrier T.2 XW271 was delivered to No.1 (F) Squadron at RAF Wittering on July 20, 1971. This was the first T-Bird to arrive at Wittering. It was converted to a T.2A standard on October 5, 1971, and then to a T.4A on December 11, 1973; the main changes being the changeover to the 103 Pegasus engine and addition of a Laser Rangefinder and Marked target Seeker (LRMTS). The aircraft served with No.1 Squadron and 233 OCU at RAF Wittering and with No.3 and No.4 Squadrons at RAF Gutersloh, in the old West Germany during the Cold War.

One notable account of XW271 service history was a race between it and a German F104 Starfighter to 10,000 ft at RAF Wittering in 1975. Despite the Starfighter having an optimised fuel load the Harrier won the race by 10 seconds and had enough fuel remaining for a one hour sortie. The Starfighter landed short of fuel minutes later.

After retirement from active Royal Air Force service, XW271 was transferred to RNAS Culdrose and saw work at the School of Flight Deck Operations (SFDO). In September 2007 she was removed from RNAS Culdrose and placed at the Royal Navy Fire training area at Predannack airfield. XW271 is one of 13 surviving Harrier T4s.

In more recent times a modified Harrier T4 (XW175) was used to support control system development of the F35B joint Strike Fighter.



Harrier T4 XW271XW271 Harrier T.2 Operated by 1 Squadron at Wittering during 1978

Harrier XW175 and F35VAAC Harrier XW175 and F35 on HMS Illustrious (Nige Foxall)

Harrier T4 XW271Harrier T.4 XW271 operated by 223 OCU at Wittering during 1992