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Newsletter 18
Autumn 2007
Updated on 5Nov2007
Contents
Editorial
Association Ties
Book Reviews
Burmese Sea Fury Incidents
Committee News
Daydreams
EDO To Project Office Part 2
F-35 Lightning II News
Flight Testing Early Jets
Harrier News
Hawk News
Joint Force Harrier Operations
Members
Neville Duke Appreciation
RAF Harrier Story
RAF Museum Visit

Published by the Hawker Association
for the Members.
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved Hawker Association
 
    Cdr Adrian Orchard, CO of 800 Naval Air Squadron based at Cottesmore, and pilot of the Royal Navy Historic Flight (RNHF) Sea Fury from Yeovilton, kindly found time on 11 July to drive south to Kingston to talk to the Association. Ambrose Barber introduced Adrian saying that he had joined the Royal Navy in 1986. By 1990 he was a Sea Harrier pilot flying from Ark Royal and with the Operational Evaluation Unit at the A&AEE, and became qualified as an Air Warfare Instructor. A Lt Cdr in 1999, he went to China Lake flying AV-8Bs and participating in the JSF programme. Back in the UK in 2002 he converted to the GR7 for the Joint Force Harrier (JFH) concept, attended Staff College in 2003 and was promoted to Commander becoming the CO of 800 NAS in 2006, serving in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
    
Joint Force Harrier Operations

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    Adrian explained that although he would use Powerpoint there would be no words on the screen; unscripted, the talk would really be a slide show. He praised the Harrier concept and  how the aircraft had been developed to the current GR9 which was still clearly based on the GRMk1. He believed that the GR9 was the most competent and capable air-ground aircraft that the UK has ever had; and the FA2 earned the same accolade in the air-air role. The JFH was part of the NATO rapid reaction force and would 'project power' deployed on carriers with twelve to fifteen aircraft per current ship. The two 65000 ton future carriers would take forty to fifty aircraft.
    Today's threat to the carriers, which generally steam within fifty miles of the coast, is not from conventional warships but from innocent looking small vessels which could, for example, launch jet-ski mounted suicide bombers or other improvised means of attack, and from shore based threats. Hence the picture of a Steward with a gun and a Maintainer manning a Gattling gun on the look-out during a Suez Canal traverse. A picture of a Harrier engine being changed in the confines of the hangar deck brought forth a serious criticism; a GR7 engine change takes 36 hours vs 2.5 hours for an F-15. (Later Ralph Hooper explained that wing removal had been an expedient design feature on the P.1127 which was never expected to be more than an experimental machine, leading to new designs of production aircraft. The rest is history!). A picture of Indian Navy FRS51s illustrated 800 NAS's Middle East and Asian cruise with eight GR7As. It seems the Indian's vertical arrivals were rather abrupt and their launches marginal, or "scary", compared with the higher powered 7As. All very nostalgic for Adrian.
    In Kandahar the job of the Harriers is to support the troops on the ground who are in small groups, always very close to the enemy with imminent death a constant threat. In contrast the air base, with its 12,000 people is well defended, now by the RAF Regiment, and relatively safe although subject to periodic attack by un-aimed 107 mm rockets. Around Kandahar the terrain is hot (55 dg C/120 deg F), high (3,300 ft asl) desert under clear blue skies with the Hindu Kush mountains in the distance and empty red desert to the south. Photos of towns showed how very difficult it is to identify accurately targets, where threats are lurking, as there are many similar looking compounds and streets. Harrier pilots use hand held gyro stabilised binoculars for spotting. The Harrier can carry a wide range of ordnance ranging from none, where the noise of the fast and low aircraft is used to frighten, to the 1000 lb laser guided bomb (LGB) which now also incorporates GPS guidance, with rockets and low-yield weapons between. This range of weapons is an important factor as it is the aim not to kill people unless absolutely necessary. Essential real-time imaging is provided by the new Sniper pod using laser, optical and IR sensors.
    The Harriers operate on the 'ground alert' system where the aircraft are held armed and fuelled, with their systems programmed, ready to go. The pilots are 'scrambled' by the traditional bell as well as by beepers and mobile 'phones, it taking about ten minutes from 'scramble' to target in response to an Army bid for top cover. This could be anything from convoy support to relief for a vehicle disabled by an improvised explosive device (IED). The situation could be urgent if the vehicle is burning, the smoke guiding more enemies to the scene. The job of the Harrier would be to clear the area around the vehicle of enemy forces while a rescue is mounted. Another task could be to look at 'the pattern of life'; to see if there are any deviations from the norm, in say a  market place with very few stalls, which might indicate imminent enemy action. Familiarity with customary local behaviour is built up by experience.
    Kandahar is a busy base with RAF Chinooks, Hercules transports, CIA anti-poppy Huey helicopters as well as the Harriers, protected by walls of containers. A 1.5 million ton high explosive store indicates a fairly long term commitment! A number of Predator unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) also operate from Kandahar, the USAF 'pilots' being in Las Vegas. A current shortcoming is tunnel vision leading to a lack of situational awareness of, for example, adjacent friendly aircraft. Adrian believes that this really represents the future for aerial warfare and that the JSF Lightning II may well be the last new manned fighter.
    Turning to his second, perhaps favourite, mount Adrian showed some beautiful pictures of the RNHF Sea Fury recently repainted in authentic dark sea grey and sky replacing the Korean War livery which VR930 never wore. (see the September 'Aeroplane'). The RNHF now also has a two seat Sea Fury as well as a Sea Hawk. One remarkable photograph showed Adrian in the Sea Fury off Margate just after a seagull strike, the gull being broken into three parts. There was no shock and apart from blood all over the windscreen nothing appeared to be wrong. Adrian recovered to Manston, canopy open, looking round the side of the windscreen, where a large dent was found on the engine cowling. A quick fix with mallet and speed tape allowed return to Yeovilton. The tough Sea Fury shrugged off the bird strike whereas modern composite structures are not so forgiving.
    Adrian flies his own light aircraft and has always been accompanied by his Springer Spaniel which likes to sleep on the back seat. Following the arrival of an Orchard baby he now, grudgingly, has to share the seat while Mrs Orchard sits in front. Baby and mother follow the Spaniel's example and fall asleep not long after take-off!  
    During question time Adrian regretted not having a gun on the GR9, the 25 mm Aden having been abandoned. His experience of the AV-8B GAU-12 gun showed it to be excellent. The RAF use rockets instead which have one advantage - visual impact; the enemy knows he's being fired at. Questioned on fuel supply he agreed that the logistics was a nightmare, the fuel coming in road tankers from Pakistan. As is the ancient Afghani custom, fuel is drawn off en route at various places as a kind of informal tax. The same 'rule' applies to all goods or livestock being transported. He noted that the Sea Harrier, at twenty five years, was the longest serving British naval aircraft and that the currently planned out-of-service date for the GR9 is 2018; that would be over thirty years from GR5 service entry. Adrian also had the highest praise for the Army who not only are under continuous threat but skilfully improvise and perform a wide range of tasks in helping to improve the life of the Afghan population. He would recommend that any business would do well to employ a young ex-army officer.
    The vote of thanks for this outstanding talk was given by Mike Hoskins, well qualified for the task as he is both a retired Naval Officer and Harrier engineer.