Harrier jump jets make final flight from RAF Cottesmore

Media caption,
Harrier pilot Captain Mike Carty speaks to the BBC's Anthony Bartram

The Harrier jump jet has made its final flight, from RAF Cottesmore in Rutland.

One of Britain's greatest technical achievements was retired early after falling victim to defence cuts.

In celebration of the aircraft, Harriers passed over seven military bases.

The Harriers will be decommissioned in 2011 to be replaced by the Joint Strike Fighter by the end of the decade.

Aircraft engineer Lt Cdr Mark Kingdom, of 800 Naval Air Squadron, is being redeployed to work on the replacement and says the Harrier will be missed.

"It's so special because it's effectively the only aircraft we can operate from sea. It's a British evolution, a British design, and it's done such a fantastic job in its 41 years of service," he said.

End of era

Axing the Harrier is set to save £450m over the next four years and £900m in total, and involve the loss of 12,000 jobs in the Harrier force.

The government's strategic defence and security review (SDSR) outlined the decision to scrap the Joint Force Harrier jet, which served the RAF and Royal Navy.

Media caption,
Archive: New British Harrier Jump Jet unveiled

Last month, a formation of Harriers made a final journey from HMS Ark Royal - the last such flight from a Royal Navy aircraft carrier for about 10 years.

The four GR9 jets marked the end of an era when they roared off the deck near North Shields on Tyneside.

The crew of the 22,000-tonne Ark Royal, which saw active service in the Balkans and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, lined the decks to watch the historic departure.

The Ark Royal is being scrapped under cost-saving measures, along with the Harriers.

The ship will be replaced by the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier at the end of the decade, which will carry F-35 jets.

'Difficult decisions'

Meanwhile, the Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen Sir David Richards, has said the package of cuts announced in the government's strategic defence and security review (SDSR) will "not be plain sailing".

The head of the armed forces acknowledged that some decisions such as scrapping the Ark Royal and the Harriers had already provoked an "understandable emotional response".

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank in Whitehall, he said: "The SDSR has undoubtedly meant taking difficult decisions.

"All three services and the civil service will lose manpower, and I am painfully aware of the understandable worry caused by the decisions we have made.

"Achieving this will not be plain sailing and much innovative and radical thinking will be required, including being prepared to shed outmoded or irrelevant attitudes and structures."

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