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Royal Air Force Harrier / Harrier II
The Harrier prototype P1127 made its first tethered at Dunsfold in October 1960, flight trials progressed from untethered hovering and then forwarded to conventional take-off and landing on the 13th March 1961, the first transition from vertical flight to horizontal flight was undertaken by XP831 during September 1961. So the birth of the Harrier was well under way.

Receiving the designation GR.1 (ground attack/reconnaissance), the first Harrier, XV738 became the first production aircraft and was delivered to Roll-Royce for further engine development in 1967. The first Unit to be equipped with the aircraft was the Harrier Conversion Team (HCT), later the title Team was replaced with Unit becoming HCU, forming at RAF Wittering in early 1969. Again changing its name to No.233 Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) and the first training course for pilots started in March 1971.
 
Becoming the first Squadron in the world to fly a vertical take off aircraft and also based at RAF Wittering was No.1 in 1969, with the next Harrier Squadron being formed witNo.4 Squadron being formed at RAF Wildenrath in Germany in June of 1970.  Two other Squadrons followed No.4 to Germany over the next  two years No.3 and 20.No.4 Squadron being formed at RAF Wildenrath in Germany in June of 1970.  Two other Squadrons followed No.4 to Germany over the next  two years No.3 and 20.

For reconnaissance the Harrier was fitted with Port Facing Oblique (PFO) F.95 camera. For tactical reconnaissance missions, the Harrier would be fitted with a low-level daylight reconnaissance pod mounted on the aircrafts centerline point. This pod was fitted with a further  four F.95 cameras, one pair fitted with 6" focal length lenses and the other pair with 3" focal length lenses.  The other camera fitted with 5" film was a F.135 mount in the vertical mode. A number of GR.1s were fitted with an upgraded engine and re-designated GR.1A
Harrier Pod and Camera Angles
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Harrier Pod and Camera Angles
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A new production of Harriers started with the uprated Mk103 Pegasus and these were given the new designation GR.3. The earlier GR.1 and 1A airframes received the new engine and designation when the aircraft went for a major servicing overhaul. One of the major modifications of the GR.3 was the fitting of a laser rangefinder in the nose, this gave the aircraft  the look of the cartoon character "Snoopy" with its long nose. The GR.3 retained its PFO camera, this time mounted behind the laser rangefinder. It also continued to used the tactical reconnaissance pod fitted to the GR.1. In 1975 Harriers deployed to the country of Belize, this being the former colony of   British Honduras and being threatened by its neighbor Guatemala. The detachment remain there for a numbers of years and was identified as No.1417 Flight.

The next role for the Harrier  was when 14 Harrier GR.3s were to see action in the Operation Corporate, the Falklands campaign of 1982, 125 ground attack and reconnaissance missions were carried out by the GR.3s.

In the UK Governments Defence White Paper on the campaign it stated that  "The absence of a dedicated overland air reconnaissance capability was a handicap in the Campaign, and the resulting lack of precise information on enemy dispositions presented an additional hazard to ground forces. We plan to improve our tactical reconnaissance capability".

Once the campaign had concluded, the GR.3s remained on the islands for a further three years based at RAF Stanley, first coming under the name of the "Har Det", later changing to No. 1453 Flight.  In May 1985 the new airfield at RAF Mount Pleasant opened with this the Harriers were replaced by RAF Phantoms.
GR.3 Harrier PFO camera port
 The PFO camera port of a Harrier GR.3 fitted in the "Snoopy" nose.
Harrier Reconnaissance Pod Fiited to GR.3
The Harrier Low-Level Reconnaissance Pod fitted to a GR.3


The next upgrade for the Harrier was seen as almost a whole new design of the aircraft, with this time the development coming from McDonnell Douglas in the USA.  The Harrier II or AV-AB, as known in the USA, had major design changes, a new front fuselage encompassing a totally new designed raised cockpit which gave the pilot for the first time rearward vision and a new larger wing.

The RAF in 1981 purchased an AV-8B and renamed if the Harrier GR.5, not longer having the F.95 camera (PFO) fitted in the nose, its only reconnaissance capability was carrying the GR.3 Low-Level reconnaissance pod. Further upgrades to the Harrier with give it the name of the GR.5, again not fitted with the PFO, this aircraft continued to use the old GR.3 "wet-film" pod, it was not until the the GR.7 variant did we see that the aircraft was modified to carry the GR.3 pod or the VICON 18 Series 601GR(1) pod again an updated "wet-film" pod.

Harrier GR.7 with DJRP Fitted 
The Harrier GR.7 fitted with a DJRP

Later this pod was replaced with the VICON 18 Series 601GP(1) EO pod,  it used an analogue S-VHS-C video tape in place of the wet film of the original 601GR(1), the pod was also known as the Digital Joint Reconnaissance Pod (DJRP). A VIGIL IR Linescan Sensor is contained in the rear section of the pod. Further sensors can be installed in the front section in either a medium-level or a low-level configuration. The VIGIL IR Linescan Sensor had a 180 across-track field-of-view and used a cooled sensor operating in the 8-12 micron band region and could be fitted in both medium and low-level pod configurations but was intended for low-level use.

In the medium-level configuration a rotating nose section contains a type-8042 EO sensor, which was a high-quality video camera with a 12.5 field-of view, and was only capable of working in day-light. The positions to which the nose could be rotated were controlled by the Cockpit Control Unit.

In the low-level configuration, there are two bays in which could be fitted an 8010 EO sensor in a one of five position/lens combinations. There were 25 possible combinations of position/lens. Later upgrades to the DJRP would be the replacement of the video tape system with hard drives.

Royal Navy Sea Harrier 
It was in May 1975 that the Royal Navy announced an order for 24 aircraft to called the Sea Harrier FRS.1 (Fighter/Reconnaissance/Strike). the production of the FRS.1 was to be "minimum change" development of the RAFs GR.3 airframe.
This Variant of the Sea Harrier was the only one which would have a reconnaissance capability. The FRS.1 was fitted with a single starboard mounted F.95 oblique camera, the camera was fitted with a 3" focal length lens and a 100 foot magazine, also it had a field of view of 41°.

Then the FRS.1 was upgraded to the FRS.2, the F.95 camera was removed and replaced with a video recording system for Heads Up Display (HUD) in the cockpit, thus the FRS.2 was not fitted with any internal reconnaissance systems.  There were plans to fit the RAF Harriers reconnaissance rod to the aircraft.
Royal Sea Harrier FRS.1
Sea Harrier FRS.1 of 809 Sqn, later transferring to 800 Sqn during the Falklands Campaign. The camera port can be seen below and forward of the cockpit