New Harrier is on guard outside Wittering

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FOR many years an historic Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR3 has stood proudly guarding the entrance gate at RAF Wittering.

But now motorists driving along the A1 will be greeted by the sight of a shiny new Harrier GR9, which plane enthusiasts hope will stand duty in a symbolic display for many years to come.

RAF Wittering has been known as the Home of the Harrier since 1968, although the first Harriers arrived at the base a year later.

However, the airbase saw its role as the home of the Harrier end in the 1990s when they moved to RAF Cottesmore and last year the Government announced the jump jet squadron would be axed as part of billions of pounds of defence cuts.

The Harrier has a special place in aircraft-lovers’ hearts as it has the distinctive ability of being able to take off vertically.

It is believed that the new Harrier GR9, which replaced the ageing Harrier GR3, has been damaged by rocket attack whilst on service at Kandahar in Afghanistan.

On return to the UK the airframe was deemed to be beyond economical repair and served as a ground instructional airframe at RAF Cottesmore, before being moved to its new home at Wittering.

The Hawker Siddeley Harrier GR3 was one of the first generation of the Harrier series in the late 1960s known as the “jump jet”

The Harrier GR3 featured improved sensors, countermeasures but the Harrier GR5/GR7/GR9 was developed throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

The Harrier GR9 was a single seat, multi-role combat aircraft that could operate in extreme environments and be deployed from air bases and aircraft carriers.

However, as part of the government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review, it was announced it would be retired by April.

An RAF spokesman said: “The placement of a Harrier GR9 at the RAF Wittering gate is a fitting tribute to the sterling service given by the Harrier force over the years.”