Loss of cannon pods on Harrier?

Discussion in 'The Fleet Air Arm' started by WhizzbangDai, Dec 4, 2008.

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  1. Question being, are the Harriers regularly flying with the 30mm cannon pods as they used to, or have they been removed... and if so why? Surely a strafe with the cannon is more effective than dropping a 500 pounder? Or have they been removed to save weight/therefore increase range and loitering ability?

    Also, because anyone looking at this thread is bound to be able to answer or at least give a view, is the A-10 - would it be possible to aquire these for ground attack duties? There isn't anything better, after all? Their fairly cheap as well, compared to other aircraft?

    I'm rambling now, but any answers would be much appreciated.
  2. No is the short answer. This is why yank air support is preferred in Afghan, as they have cannons and can strafe. Apache is also a favourite with the lads, as not only does it have a cannon, it has the ability to loiter, as well as the ability to self-designate. However, Tornado GR4 will be taking over from Harrier in Afghan fairly soon (ie. within a couple of months), so the Brits will regain some kind of strafe capability (I think). I have no idea when the cannon was removed from the Harrier.
  3. Due to weight and being very unrelieable. It was on the mighty Sea Harrier but not GR's.
  5. This is a long time ago, but during the Falklands campaign, 1 F Squadron dropped lots of 1000 pounders and I think a few CBUs, the cannon was hardly used if at all. Preference was FRA and get the f*ck out of there PDQ. The Argies did not appreciate our presence and made it known, therefore strafe was not really an option.
  6. The Shar 1 also had an ability of damaging itself, when strafing as the links would hit the tail.
  7. Gone. The Sea Harrier had 30mm gun pods but it's retired, the GR.7/9 was going to get two 25mm ADEN but it never worked properly and was binned.

    Strafing is just not that effective: its enthusiastic advocates point out that you can strafe to within stupidly-close metres of friendlies, the cynics note what that tells us about its lethality. Meanwhile, a strafing pass puts you right down into small-arms / AAA / MANPADS territory, and repeated passes over an alerted enemy are a fantastic way to get shot down. (Several RAF Harrier losses in the Falklands to exactly this: first attack wakes up the enemy and tells them where you are, second is into a faceful of ground fire. Bad return for delivering a few score 30mm shells).

    The A-10 has its own troubles in Afghanistan: it's payload-limited because of the hot & high environment, and the A-10 is chronically short of power. It's also slow, so unless it's on call overhead your response time for CAS will be longer. And it's inflexible: if there's any credible opposition, it's dead meat against enemy fighters or SAMs, whereas something like Harrier can still play on (for example) Day 1 of Op GRANBY, with some chance of evading missiles and escaping fighters.

    Finally, it *was* relatively cheap, but two problems: firstly, putting the gear in it to make it useful (secure comms, targeting pods, precision weapons) made it rather less inexpensive, and secondly it's been out of production since 1984 and the manufacturer no longer exists - so there's no more to be bought...
  8. 3 second burst of depleted uranium 30mm cannon shells doesn't seem small to me lol - Warrior/Scimitar has a burst of 6 and thats impressive enough and deemed a lot of firepower! I'm (currently) ina TA Yeomanry regiment and all the blokes in my troop loved A-10's? I guess their not the experts though.
    I'm not arguing here i'm just asking based on what I thought I know...doesn#t the A-10 still have a big loiter time? and even if the payload is decreased, it has a huge payload in the beginning anyway, so surely it still carries more weapons than a Harrier for example?
    And finally its a COIN aircraft, and thats the only kind of war were fighting at the moment... so surely a squadron would be useful?
  9. Just as long as they realise that you're on the same side.
  10. No its a Tank Buster That was designed to be taking out the hoards of russian armour coming over the German Plains.
  11. It was a follow on from the A-1 Skyraider which was found to be excellent at COIN in Vietnam and built and improved upon the Skyraiders advantages. It was turned into a tankbuster halfway through its development. Either way its excellent at both
  12. Quite true i hadnt thought of it that way.
  13. Whizzbang,

    A three second burst of 30mm at high rate from a GAU-8 is a fair few shells (about two hundred) - however, back when they had the guns a Harrier could put down the same volume of fire (2 x ADEN at high rate pretty well match the Gatling) and a lot more of the shells would be high-explosive. The A-10's gun was chosen for tank-killing, and it's highly specialised for that. While it wouldn't be nice to be on the wrong end of it, if I were on foot I'd worry more about 30mm from something like an Apache - more lethal and more likely to hit me, or hit near enough to hurt.

    What "the guys on the ground" love is not necessarily what's best at hurting the Bad Guys - a prime example is napalm. Infantry (especially in the US) used to love it and specifically request it because they could *see* it working in a way that they couldn't see equivalent weights of high explosive: a couple of 150-gallon napalm tanks dropped fast and low across the front of a friendly position got you the Vietnam War Movie "wall of fire" effect, which looked and felt and smelt amazing and surely *must* be lethal, while two 500lb bombs produced two unimpressive puffs of black smoke and some flying debris that surely could hardly hurt anyone. It went out of fashion because, despite its popularity with the troops being supported, it actually wasn't that much use at helping them compared to rockets or bombs; the French dropped lots of it around Dien Bien Phu, but it usually didn't even get through the canopy and down to ground level.

    The A-10 can loiter for a fair while, but it doesn't do well if it has to cover some distance to reach the troops who need it; the reduced payload in Afghanistan is down to Harrier level; and, again, buying kit for "what we're doing today" only works if you're sure you don't have to do something more demanding (for the aircraft! not the guys on the ground!) in the near future.

    Look at the kicking the A-10 took in 1991: the Iraqis shot down seven and damaged fourteen, even when they were ordered up high out of the MANPADs/AAA zone. It's slow and underpowered, which means it has trouble dodging the first missile and can't get height and speed back to get away from any second or third shots.

    Keeping it naval, it's like buying Type 21 frigates because they're meant to be cheap and simple, probably won't be tasked with serious warfighting, and are adequate for patrolling off Rhodesia or facing off Icelandic trawlers... but when it kicks off into a proper war, you send what you have, and in 1982 the 21s got sent South and two got sunk. If we bought A-10s "just for Herrick", they'd get sent wherever else trouble flared up, and if the Bad Guys had decent MANPADs then they'd suffer; while if the Bad Guys had any sort of credible air defence system, the A-10s would be deathtraps.

    The US has the resources to make the skies sort-of-safe for A-10s to operate (though even Iraq in 1991 could dispute that). We certainly don't have anything like the same capability, so we can't just ask for a squadron of spare Warthogs.

    And now my fingers are tired :)
  14. Excellent, thank you.
  15. If the A-10 fires its cannons in anything longer than a 4 second burst, it is put into a stall by the recoil. (or so rumour has it...)
  16. It was precisely this experience that prompted one 1 F Sqn pilot to say " re-attack no longer exists in my vocab, not unless it's the next day"
  17. Nice rumour, but it's a load of horse sh1t. Those 2 suck/blow things stuck on the rear produce slightly more thrust than the canon does recoil.
  18. Not another ‘the A-10 is great, let’s buy some off the Yanks thread!!!’


    Do you have any military experience? Others here have made a good assessment of the A-10s capabilities. As an AWACS type I’ve tasked it and seen how the Hog integrates into ops in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq as well as numerous exercises. I’ve also seen it partly from the ‘customers perspective’ (albeit not in a direct CAS context) having served alongside the Army on the ground in Iraq and tasked A-10s.

    Essentially, the A-10 is an excellent CAS asset with a decent payload IF the weather is good, it’s not dark, and it’s close to the point of need. In poor weather its utility is significantly degraded by the inability of the pilot to acquire and remain visual with the targets in what will often be a very fluid scenario. There is a very good reason why there has been a disproportionate number of A-10 blue on blues in GW1, GW2, Iraq and Afghanistan over the years, despite assets such as F-16s and FA-18s statistically providing the greater number of CAS missions.

    The A-10C upgrade just being fielded will address some of these long standing weaknesses by adding J series weapons, digital CAS capability and a decent targeting pod. However, probably its greatest weakness remains unchanged: it’s slow transit time.

    This means that an A-10 will often be slow to arrive on task when conducting XCAS (airborne) or GCAS (ground) CAS alert. I have experienced numerous times when other assets have had to be employed because the A-10s were simply not able to get to the scene quickly enough. Assets like the F-16, F-15E, GR4 and even the B-1Bs when used for CAS can transit at much higher speeds when time is of the essence. Even the Harrier can get there a lot quicker.

    Moreover, the A-10 is pretty limited in bringing other effects to the table. It is useful as a CSAR RESCORT and AbFAC asset, but its recce capabilities have always been limited in comparison to other types. Again, the A-10C reduces that disparity by adding a modern targeting pod, but it still isn’t great.

    Leave the A-10 with the Spams. Personally, in my experience the Harrier is a more rounded CAS type and the lack of cannon on RAF/RN GR9s is offset by the use of other weapons.

  19. I'm a TA officer cadet, (real TA, not UOTC loL) waiting to go into the Navy (FAA) after University, but I have a keen interest in military history and current affiard, doing as I do INternational Politics as my degree.

    SO i don't know that much beyond general capabilities, which is why I asked the question, and thank you very much for all the answers i've been getting. the more i learn now, then better frankly, so keep firing away!

    On that note - GR4's to Afghan? i've been seeing reports - how will they compare to Harrier?
  20. GR4s and GR9s each have advantages over the other.

    The Harrier is generally able to deploy to more austere locations with a far lower logs footprint. That’s why it first went into KAF, particularly as the useable runway was pretty short. It has a very useful ability to carry a mixed warload which is useful for escalation although it lacks cannons.

    The GR4 in contrast is more logs heavy but has the advantage of an extra pair of eyes (useful when trying to visually acquire a target) and the cannon. Both the GR4 and GR9 can carry the DJRP recce pod and a modern targeting pod (Sniper on the GR9 and Litening III on the Tonka). Sniper and Litening III can provide live video feed straight to a TACP (as demonstrated on TV by a certain HRH recently) and essentially double up as an FMV/recce asset. Unlike the GR9, the GR4 can also carry the highly specialised RAPTOR pod which produces exceptionally high quality imagery on a par with that provided by the U-2. In terms of CAS and Recce, the GR4 has been operating over Iraq since 2003 (although the GR4 fleet has been committed to Iraqi ops prior to that since 1992), so the crews are used to such ops. It is not just a strike asset!

    Contrary to what some have implied here, cannon is still used and the GR4 has strafed on numerous occasions in Iraq.

    In terms of HERRICK, each has advantages over the other. However, their relative merits are fairly academic as JFH is being flogged to death in the Stan and needs to take a break. Otherwise the airframe hrs (not to mention personnel morale!) will be used up well before F-35 arrives (if it ever does). Mark Lancaster MP conveniently forgets this fact when banging on about why GR4 is replacing the Harrier in theatre.

    The other good thing about GR9 being withdrawn from Afghanistan is that it’ll hopefully reduce the dribbling from the RN about never seeing them on CVS!

    Best of luck with your FAA career. :thumright:


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