Harriers of both of the latter versions made their successful combat debut during the Falklands War in 1982. US Marine Corps became interested in the Harrier as well, and as a result Harrier production was taken up by McDonnell Douglas under designation AV-8. Harriers were also purchased by India, Italy, Spain and Thailand.
BAe Harrier GR.3 number XW 919 first flew on 23rd July 1971 and was subsequently delivered to no. 1 Squadron RAF in September 1971. It was while on duty in this unit that the plane went through a serious accident caused by a power loss in the engine. The pilot catapulted himself to safety. Subsequently the plane served in no. 4. Squadron RAF stationed at Gütersloh, Germany. Prior to its war episode, it was involved in filming BBC ‶Squadron” series.
The Falklands War was undoubtedly the most interesting part of this plane’s history. In early May 1982, it was rebased to Wideawake Airfield on Ascension Island in the Atlantic, where it provided air cover prior to the arrival of Phantom FGR.2 aircraft. On June 8th, supported by four Handley Page Victor K.1 tanker aircraft, the Harrier accomplished an almost 8-hour flight to HMS Hermes aircraft carrier. While in flight it suffered a navigation instruments failure, however it followed its wingman to safe landing at the carrier’s deck. On July 12th, 1982 while attacking Argentinian artillery positions on Sapper Hill with cassette bombs, XW 919 flown by Flt. Lt. Murdo McLeod came under heavy fire from 601. Anti-Aircraft Artillery Group (Grupo de Artillería Antiaérea 601 also known as GADA 601 Grupo de Artillería de Defensa Aérea 601). The plane was severely damaged by either a shrapnel or a Tigercat missile which, by the way, was of British origin. With the plane’s aft fuselage on fire, the pilot nevertheless succeeded in landing on HMS Hermes. Following the incident, the plane was sent back to Britain on MV Contender Bezant the next month.
The plane was donated by the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom at Shrivenham thanks to efforts of the late gen. pil. Tadeusz Andersz." (Text from the museum website).