I AM not a military man and have supported a number of anti-war campaigns ranging from Vietnam to Afghanistan, but last Saturday evening I tuned into BBC4 to view the history of the British Harrier Jump Jet.
The programme was dedicated to the memory of Dr John Fozard (1928-1996) but failed to reveal that he was a former pupil at Heckmondwike Grammar School.
He served an apprenticeship as a draughtsman aged 16 and became design chief for the Harrier Jump Jet from 1963-1978.
Fozard worked on his ideas in the 1950s to build a jet that could take off and land vertically. By the mid 1960s no-one would buy it.
The Harrier didn’t match the speed of conventional jet fighters, nor could it carry as many bombs and, according to one spokesman: “couldn’t carry a packet of cigarettes across a football field”.Eventually the Americans bought it and recommended it to NATO.
When UK governments made defence cuts in the 1970s the Royal Navy became the first service to use it.
Its first major test was in 1982 when the Thatcher government sent the task force 8,000 miles to the Falklands. Twenty Harrier Jump Jets took on the Argentinian army and navy.
The Harriers were outnumbered in the air by 10-1, but no Harriers were lost in combat. On the programme, an Argentinian commander said the outcome of the war would have been different had they had the services of the Harrier Jet.
Today there is a bit of sabre rattling between the UK and Argentina over the future of the islands.
Let’s hope there is no war, but if there is, Harrier Jump Jets will not be used as they were scrapped by the Tory-Lib/Dem coalition in last year’s defence cuts.
Several years ago the Spen Valley Civic Society produced 50 plaques commemorating Spen’s famous people and places. John Fozard is number 14 and can be found at Holme Street, Millbridge, Liversedge.