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& Bullets

Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.


With reviews of books that cover these topics


Harrier Boys         Volume 2 (1990-2010)


Bob Marston                         Grub Street, July 2016

In retrospect a great idea to split the career of this iconic aircraft and its crew into two volumes. The period from 1990 until its untimely axe (in UK service) in 2010 contains much of interest. Bob Marston carries on from Volume 1; his introduction, enumerating the many enhancements in the latter half of its career, is both concise and useful. As ever the use of various contributors in the Boys format gives added interest through variations in texture and style. I particularly enjoyed Roger Robertshaw who, in chapter 2, describes the ability of the Harrier to terrify its pilots, in his case whilst operating in the murky weather of the Falklands.


As we enter a new era of co-operation with the US in flying the F-35, the Harrier was a precursor. It is interesting that the US contributors in this book (on exchange postings) were very complimentary about the RAF’s training regime. The Harrier was of course operated by both the RAF and the RN, and the episodes of bitter inter-service rivalry make for interesting reading.


Sometimes the public give the impression that they believe the life of aircrew in today’s armed forces to be a breeze. Like many Boys titles, this book gives the lie to that. There has only been one year since 1945 when there has not been an aircrew fatality. One who had a particularly narrow escape, Mark Leakey, describes a testing, and possibly terrifying, accident in his Harrier. The book contains moments of welcome candour: Steve Long, for example, illuminating the dark side of the Harrier Force’s over-achieving mentality. Also of interest was the window into Tony Blair’s shaky command style – in this case during the Sierra Leone flare-up  - an operation which also revealed poor leadership from the RN, according to the contributor.


The Harrier is a gift of a subject, but Bob Marston has done it full justice in assembling a fine list of contributors. A rich harvest.


Harrier 2
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