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Sacrebleu! French Harriers (whisper it to Marcel Dassault).

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Hawker Harrier Mk.51 - 2/30 'Normandie-Nieman', Armée de l'Air, 1976


The unfortunate loss of the second prototype of the Mirage IIIV in November 1966 merely served to bring a quick end to that programme which was increasingly being viewed with a more critical eye by Armée de l'Air officials who considered that the range and payload penalty on the aircraft, and the associated maintenance burden imposed by the eight lift engines, made the aircraft unsuitable for operational service.


During early 1967 Armée de l'Air officials studied the reports from the joint German/UK/US tri-partite evaluation squadron (who had operated the Hawker Kestrel during 1964 and 1965) and also the RAF's Air Staff Requirement 384 for a V/STOL ground attack jet and the resultant Hawker P.1127 which had begun flight testing in late 1966. At a time when France and the UK were collaborating on the AFVG, Concorde and Jaguar programmes (and also collaborating on three military helicopters) the French Government made a tentatative approach to come on board with joint development of the P.1127 (Harrier) but the programme was so well advanced that this was not a realistic avenue for either nation to take. Behind the scenes politics were at play and when France withdrew from the AFVG programme in June 1967 the UK Government were immediately able to announce a French order for "60 aircraft of the P.1127 type" to be licence-built by Breguet Aviation (allegedly as Marcel Dassault would have nothing to do with "the stumpy British toy"). 


Entering service with the Armée de l'Air in August 1970 the French Harriers were supplemented by a follow-on order for an additional 36 aircraft in 1974 and the force was slowly upgraded with the Agave multi-mode radar in the late 1970's and remained in service until 1992. Immediately after the 1982 Falklands War six Agave equipped Harriers were transferred to RAF stocks to equip 1453 Flight at Stanley to provide an interim air defence capability until the new airbase at RAF Mount Pleasant was opened after which 1453 Flight was disbanded and No.23 Squadron took over the air defence of the Falkland Islands in 1985.











Edited by Spinners
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Excellent subject. It inspires me to mod the Ouragan and Foudre class LPDs on Dangerous Waters to receive some Aéronaval Harriers.

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