US to buy ex-British Harriers


The US Navy and Marine Corps have agreed to buy the United Kingdom’s Harrier jet fleet after it was decommissioned due to budget cuts. All 74 aircraft, as well as engines and spares, will be sold.

The GR9 and GR9A aircraft will join the Harriers already operated by the US, helping the Marine Corps to operate the type into the next decade, the Navy Times reports. The Marines are planning to phase out their McDonnell Douglas-built AV-8B Harries by 2025.

A spokesman for the British Ministry of Defence said the Disposal Services Agency was in talks regarding the sale.

Rear Admiral Mark Heinrich, chief of the U.S. Navy’s Supply Corps, confirmed the two-part deal on Thursday during a conference in New York sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch in association with Defense News.

Heinrich negotiated the US$50 million purchase of all Harrier spare parts, while Rear Admiral Donald Gaddis, the U.S. Navy’s program executive officer for tactical aircraft, is overseeing discussions to buy the Harrier aircraft and their Rolls-Royce engines, Heinrich said. The price of the airframes is still being negotiated.

The UK’s Harriers were decommissioned last year as part of drastic Strategic Defence & Security Review cuts. The aircraft are stored at Royal Air Force Base Cottesmore, where they are being kept in airworthy status.

As only 40 of the Harriers were still serviceable to fly last year, it is not clear if the US will use the aircraft for spares or will fly them as well.

An MoD source said on Friday that he thought both deals could be signed in the next week or two, according to Defense News.

Britain said in October last year that it would cut the 37 billion pound (US$59 billion) defence budget by 8 percent in real terms over four years to help cut a record peacetime budget deficit.

The defence cuts stripped Britain of the ability to fly fast jets from an aircraft carrier for around a decade, when two new carriers are scheduled to be completed.

BAE Systems, which made the UK’s Harriers, last year said it would cut 1 300 jobs in the UK because of cuts in the Nimrod and Harrier programmes.