A84-232 was built on the Government Aircraft Factory (GAF) production line at Avalon, Victoria and first flew on 31 May 1956. The aircraft was delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on 9 July of that year. Later in its career, the A84-232 served with No 2 Squadron in Vietnam, as part of the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron, US 7th Air Force from August 1967 to June 1971.
During late 1972, A84-232 was one of six Canberra’s to be modified for aerial survey work and it carried on in this role until it was retired from service in 1982.
The aircraft was subsequently issued to the GAF at Avalon for restoration and eventual display. In June 1985, resplendent in its original overall silver scheme and still carrying its aerial survey modifications, the aircraft was placed on display at the main entrance to the factory at Avalon.
After being on display at Avalon for over 25 years, this historic aircraft was a prime candidate for restoration especially as the main theme of the 2011 Australian International Airshow at Avalon was to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the RAAF. Despite a monumental uphill battle to get the aircraft ready due to years of neglect, the project was successfully completed by volunteers from Airshows Downunder.
The aircraft formed the centre-piece of the static display of historical aircraft at the main entrance to the Airshow in 2011. Its presence not only represented the Canberra in RAAF service but also as a memorial to all those who served on the aircraft and its squadrons.
Since 2011 preservation has continued with a complete re-paint taking place before the 2013 event. Gradually the missing parts from the airframe and cockpit have been sourced and fitted to bring the aircraft back to almost stock condition. Whilst externally complete, having been stored in the open for so many years the canopy is now due for replacement. With no original examples available the team has been in contact with the manufacturers of the original canopies to fabricate a replacement.
The Harrier has entered its 48th year of operational service. Although no longer in service in the UK, the USMC currently plans to operate the aircraft until around 2025. A remarkable feat for an aircraft designed in the 1960s and real tribute to Hawkers and Bristol (later Rolls Royce), the developers of the unique Pegasus thrust vectoring engine.
The Harrier has been the world’s only truly successful VTOL fighter. It was developed in response to a NATO requirement for a platform capable of dispersed operations, immune from runway attack, and capable of operating close to the front line from disused roads and fields. The combined high power to weight ratio thrust vector capability soon revealed the aircraft’s ability to out-climb and out-manoeuvre most other contemporary fighters of the time including F5s, F4s and F15s. The Harrier soon found its way into the Royal Navy where it proved itself in the Falklands War in conditions that no other aircraft could operate. It has since proved itself in numerous other operations around the globe. Only now, some 50 years later, does the F35 JSF stand to challenge the Harrier’s unique operational capability.
Having first flown on May 26, 1971, Harrier T.2 XW271 was delivered to No.1 (F) Squadron at RAF Wittering on July 20, 1971. This was the first T-Bird to arrive at Wittering. It was converted to a T.2A standard on October 5, 1971, and then to a T.4A on December 11, 1973; the main changes being the changeover to the 103 Pegasus engine and addition of a Laser Rangefinder and Marked target Seeker (LRMTS). The aircraft served with No.1 Squadron and 233 OCU at RAF Wittering and with No.3 and No.4 Squadrons at RAF Gutersloh, in the old West Germany during the Cold War.
One notable account of XW271 service history was a race between it and a German F104 Starfighter to 10,000 ft at RAF Wittering in 1975. Despite the Starfighter having an optimised fuel load the Harrier won the race by 10 seconds and had enough fuel remaining for a one hour sortie. The Starfighter landed short of fuel minutes later.
After retirement from active Royal Air Force service, XW271 was transferred to RNAS Culdrose and saw work at the School of Flight Deck Operations (SFDO). In September 2007 she was removed from RNAS Culdrose and placed at the Royal Navy Fire training area at Predannack airfield. XW271 is one of 13 surviving Harrier T4s.
In more recent times a modified Harrier T4 (XW175) was used to support control system development of the F35B joint Strike Fighter.
XW271 was purchased in January 2015 by the Australian company Advanced VTOL Technologies (AVT). AVT plans to restore the aircraft to ground-run condition.
AVT provides engineering services to the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and a number of other Defence Forces and organisations around the world. AVT specialises in helicopter-ship interface analysis, helicopter slung loads simulation, fixed wing simulation, structural analysis, computational fluid dynamics and human factors. AVT also has a strong interest in the development VSTOL UAV platforms, notably its Hammerhead platform.