Anthropoid wrote:So . . . mirage vs. sea harrier? Equally as potent? Not a an aircraft expert, but I ask because the dude commented that "they had the mirage with a higher top speed, 50% higher ceiling, and longer range missiles" or some such.
The Brit pilots did well not because of the Harrier, but for two reasons:
1) Because they were well-trained and experienced.
2) Because those Harriers had just received new models of all-aspect Sidewinder missiles. The Argentinian missiles would've only been able to fire from a rear aspect while the newer ones on the Harriers could fire from all-around. Big difference in firing envelope and ability to hit the target.
Harriers are absolutely not ideal for air-to-air engagements. The lack of afterburner is a huge deal, as is being able to go supersonic to a lesser extent. In WVR dogfights, the extra acceleration that an afterburner provides can give a massive advantage to pilots who know how to use that extra energy advantage.
You'll also note from the video that they describe all three kills coming from the Sidewinder missiles they fired. Those new versions allowed them to fire from all kinds of bad angles, which they previously hadn't been able to, and still get hits.
The Mirage III and Kfir (Israeli version sold to Argentina) were a bit older but still capable at the time. They were supersonic fighters with afterburners, and therefore posed a big threat to them. They were only every armed with similar infrared homing AtA missiles like those on the Harrier, so the pilot's suggestion that they were greatly out-ranged is an exaggeration. The Argentinian missiles also were much less capable than the RN's newly acquired ones when it came to tracking and hitting their targets.
Lastly, the pilot mentioned shooting Skyhawks. The A-4 Skyhawk was a subsonic (no afterburner) ground attack aircraft. Due to the limited amounts of pylons on those old birds, they were often only loaded with air-to-ground ordnance and no AtA missiles. Even if they did have Sidewinders, they would've been the older less capable ones.
I'd say it was a matter of the British pilots having more time and training in their aircraft, mixed with their missile capability advantage, which was the big decider in the Falklands air battles. Despite
the limitations of the Harrier.
Sorry to the Harrier fans, but I always thought it was an overrated niche vanity piece. The only reason the Marines bought them was so they could fly a few off the short helo assault ships, but we would've been better off spending that money on more attack helos to put on them, for the same short-range ground support role, and let the Navy do their fixed wing bombing (with better payloads and numbers) from the CVs per usual. Misplaced spending IMO, but the USMC has often been bad about their equipment procurement.