The origins of the development of the Harrier family date back to 1957; the first examples of the series, belonging to the GR.1 version entered into service with the RAF 12 years later. Many upgrades including an up-rated Pegasus engine and a laser tracker mounted in the lengthened nose led to the creation of the GR.3 version, which was considered to be the ultimate development of the first generation Harrier. The GR.3 Harriers saw successful service during the Falklands war.
The event that triggered the conflict in the South Atlantic was the occupation of South Georgia by Argentina on 19 March 1982. This was followed by the occupation of the Falkland Islands beginning on 2 April and ending with the Argentinian forces surrendering on 14 June 1982.
Although described mostly as a ‘war’, there was never an official declaration as such by either side throughout the conflict. The British naval task force engaged the Argentinian Navy and Air Force and retook possession of the Islands by amphibious assault and combat that resulted in the loss of 258 British and 649 Argentinian servicemen.
Harriers and Sea Harriers formed the strike element of the South Atlantic Task Force comprising elements from Nos.800 and 899 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) on HMS Hermes, and Nos.801 and 899 NAS on board HMS Invincible supported by twelve Harriers GR Mk 3s from No.1 Squadron Royal Air Force (RAF). Initial strikes by Harriers on 1 May 1982, following the opening attack by Vulcan’s on Port Stanley airport, damaged and destroyed a considerable number of aircraft on the ground. Throughout the conflict Sea Harriers flew 1,435 sorties while RAF Harriers flew 126 sorties.
The Wessex helicopter also contributed greatly to the outcome of the conflict. HU Mk 5s with the South Atlantic Task Force came from Nos.845, 847 and 848 NAS operating from HMS Endurance and most of the other Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ships in the task force. A pair of HAS Mk 3 Wessex were also deployed, coming from No.737 NAS flying mostly from HMS Antrim and HMS Glamorgan. HU Mk 5 XS518 of No.847 NAS claimed the sinking of the Argentinian submarine Santa Fe