The Harrier made its final flight with the British RAF last week, marking an end to the jet famous for being able to take off and land vertically. The jet's recently declassified flight manual shows just how extraordinary it was.

The original Hawker Harrier Jet was designed by the British in the 60s and utilized a "vectored thrust turbofan engine," which allowed the thrust created by the jet engines to be pointed in a downward direction. The first planes were launched using an upward-curved ski-jump ramp on flight decks for a short takeoff.


In 1982, the Harrier concept first saw major active duty as the Sea Harrier in the Falklands Island War. Though not as fast as the Argentinian's French/Israeli Mirage III and Dagger jets, the maneuverability and advanced weapons led to the Harriers killing 28% of the Argentine fighters without losing a single plane in air-to-air combat.

After more successes in the Balkan and Gulf conflicts, BAE and McDonnell Douglas teamed up to build a better version dubbed the Harrier II for Britain (the GR5/7/9) and the U.S (AV-8B). The final British Harrier II active duty flight occurred last week, though the American version is still flying and other air forces and navies still use the incredible jet.

This guide to the American AV-8B demonstrates both the complexity and the awesomeness of the Harrier. We've edited down the 714-page document to the best diagrams and most interesting segments.

You can read the full guide here.