Chris Farara remembers the early days…
In 1973 and 1974 I worked at Kingston for John Fozard, then Executive Director, Deputy Chief Engineer and Chief Designer Harrier, as his personal Technical Assistant, following Ray Searle who had been John’s first TA. At that time the Company was working hard to secure the Sea Harrier programme so a large proportion of John’s time was devoted to the project. The basis of the Sea Harrier was, of course, the in-service RAF Harrier but changes were necessary to ‘navalise’ it and make it satisfy the requirements of the new role. Some were fairly simple like providing tie-down lugs and an independent emergency brake system for deck use and safety, eliminating the few magnesium airframe components for sea water corrosion reasons, increasing roll reaction control power and tailplane travel for improved hovering and transition handling qualities.
The big changes were in the avionics fit which included the Ferranti
Blue Fox radar, a new digital head-up display and weapon aiming
computer, a new attitude and heading reference system, a Doppler radar,
a new digital navigation computer and the electrical generation system
to power it all. This all had to be housed in the existing airframe.
The radar could have been mounted in the front of the GRMk3 nose, in fact DB Harrier XV277 was flown satisfactorily with a dummy radome, but the Sea Harrier, unlike the ground attack RAF aircraft, would be used in air combat which requires all-round pilot vision. The view aft from the ground attack GRMk3 was poor. The answer would be to raise the cockpit, a proposal strongly advocated by Lt Cdr Nigel ‘Sharkey’ Ward, from the Department of Naval Air Warfare, whose project the Sea Harrier was. He was a frequent visitor to John Fozard’s office where they would discuss the finer points of the Sea Harrier design. Such a cockpit would be expensive and the Sea Harrier had to be a minimum change and minimum cost aircraft if the Navy was to get the funding for the project.
However, John Fozard sold the idea to the Ministry of Defence
Procurement Executive by claiming that it was essential to raise the
cockpit to provide space beneath it for radar ancillary electronic
boxes. The Navy, of course, was in complete agreement.
Sharkey also wanted more space between the pilot’s helmet and the canopy to allow increased head movement during air combat. It would be simple and inexpensive to bulge the canopy a bit but John Fozard knew that Roll-Royce Bristol would want to qualify their engine with its intake behind the revised canopy, and such tests would be expensive. John judged that any effects on the intake air flow would be trivial so his solution was to authorise the bulged canopy - but not to tell the engineers at Bristol.
To ensure that the cost of the aircraft was as low as possible John kept his eye on every change from the GRMk3 that his design team proposed. There were frequent informal meetings in his office with whichever specialist or group had a proposal. It was my job to round them up then make notes on what was agreed or what the actions from the meeting were, and then to follow progress.
One of John’s strengths was that he had a deep knowledge of all
aspects of fighter aircraft design so could understand his designers’
proposals, argue with them and get the best out of them. He also had a
good relationship with the test pilots, particularly John Farley, and
would discuss operational and flying aspects with them. The ‘Two
Ronnies’ (Barker and Corbett) had a TV show at the time which featured
a pair of spoof detectives, Charlie Farley and Piggy Malone; the
Farley-Fozard partnership soon became known by these names in the
Before there was a chance of a production contract the Government had to be convinced that the cost was justified. John took a strong interest in this. He personally produced a paper based on his research into the industrial implications of the Sea Harrier project. He examined the value of the Sea Harrier, in terms of employment and tax returns, to all the contractors from British Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, Ferranti, Smiths Industries and other top-level equipment suppliers, through aluminium alloy, steel, titanium and wiring suppliers down to suppliers of nuts, bolts and rivets. He plotted these hundreds of firms on a map of the United Kingdom to illustrate how widespread the industrial and technological benefits would be to the nation. This paper was distributed to Members of Parliament and other influential groups. John also worked with the trade unions who were also promoting the project through their connections with the government.
John was tireless in promoting the Sea Harrier, especially to journalists who would be lined up by the Kingston Public Relations staff and invited to his office for a briefing. John had a gift for explaining complex engineering matters so that non-specialists could understand the problems and solutions. He would sit at the head of the long table in his office with his guests each side. Using a stack of plain white A3 sheets of paper and a black felt tip pen he would illustrate the points he was making and at the end of the briefing would fold up the sheets and hand them over. A favourite theme was that the Sea Harrier was the only fighter that Nelson could have used, illustrated by a sketch of HMS Victory with a platform, built off the stern, over which a Sea Harrier was hovering.
Following the submission by BAe Kingston of a Development Cost plan for the finalised configuration agreement was reached in late 1973 by the government that the Navy could have their Sea Harrier and the programme should proceed. However, “events” intervened: the world fuel crisis, the UK miners’ strike, the three day working week, the 1974 general election and government change to Labour. The project was kept going by funding for small studies and it was not until May 1975 that the government approved the development and production of 24 Sea Harrier FRSMk1 aircraft for the Royal Navy. Sharkey Ward got the first squadron (No 700A)…..and the rest is history!