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RAF Cottesmore
Harrier Draw Down
October to December 2010
This is a brief photo-report from visits to RAF Wittering just a few weeks after the Government had announced on October 19, 2010 the results of its Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR)

The draw down
On November 4, the three former 41(Test and Evaluation) Squadron Harrier GR.9’s at Coningsby were transferred to 1(Fighter) Squadron at Cottesmore where pilots continued to fly missions along with 800 Naval Air Squadron (NAS). At Cottesmore training flights appeared to carry on as normal, however after November 23 they were not seen at low level. Four Harriers using callsign ‘Jedi 1-4’ were perhaps the last low level sortie flying at 250 feet through low-flying Area 7 in mid-Wales.
Instructor pilots with IV(Reserve) Squadron the Harrier Operational Conversion Unit based at Wittering, the jet’s spiritual home for 41 years, continued to fly to stay current with just two flights a day being the average until they were transferred to Cottesmore on December 10. During their final week they flew sorties to various air bases around the country as a final good bye.
From December 2 poor weather had hampered the Harriers plunge into its shocking early retirement. Unprecedented extreme cold weather with snow had iced up the taxiways and runway had prevented all flying from Cottesmore. To save money it was not until December 9 that the go ahead was given to clear the ice and snow in readiness for the IV(R) Squadron jets arriving from Wittering. During the Harrier’s final full week of flying operations fog and low cloud caused the planned farewell formation flypast practises to be postponed. In the last few days some sorties were flown to prepare aircraft and practise for the final event the 16 ship diamond formation which was finally achieved on December 14.
RAF Cottesmore on December 13 and 14, 2010 when only a fews hours were available for flying
The last Harrier sunset, December 13, 2010
Left to right: On December 13 a number of pilots were flying right up to sunset, when one pilot landed an air traffic controller said "You are now an ex Harrier pilot."
Left to right: On December 14, due to poor weather they just managed to get the 16 ship formation airborne in pairs from 14:00, they all returned in fading light an hour later.
Harrier GR.9 (ZG530 '84') of 800 NAS and Harrier T.10 (ZH657 '105') of 4(R) Squadron.

Left to right: Harrier GR.9 (ZD347 '14A') of 800 NAS in the engine de-tuner on the morning of December 14 to prepare this jet for the following day's flypast. 
Harrier GR.9 (ZG858) with a 4(R) Squadron special tail on approach just before sunset, December 13
Left to right: On December 13 Harrier T.12 (ZH663 '111') in 1(F) markings went out with the four 'special scheme' aircraft for a photo shoot. Harrier GR.9A (ZG506) in a retro GR.1 scheme with Harrier GR.9 (ZG477) with a 1(F) Squadron special tail.
Harrier GR.9A (ZG506) in a retro GR.1 camouflage scheme taxiing out for its first sortie
Left to right: Harrier GR.9A (ZD351) with a 800 NAS special tail and Harrier GR.9 (ZG858) with a 4(R) Squadron special tail inscribed '1970 - 2010'. They took-off at 14:00 and returned at 14:50 for a series of touch and goes.
Left to right: Harrier GR.9A (ZG506) and Harrier T.12 (ZH663 '111') in 1(F) markings.  
Left to right: Harrier GR.9 (ZG477) with a 1(F) Squadron special tail. Harrier GR.9 (ZG858) with a 4(R) Squadron special tail.
Left to right: Harrier GR.9 (ZG857 'EB-Z') in 1(F) markings but still with its previous 41(R) tail code on an engine test on December 13.
Harrier GR.9 (ZD437 '49') in 800 NAS markings
Left to right: Harrier GR.9A (ZD436 '48A') of 1(F) Squadron and Harrier GR.9 (ZD437 '49') in 800 NAS markings both on engine test sorties on December 13.

low-flying Area 7 mid-Wales on November 10
Left to right: Harrier GR.9/As (ZD433 '45A, ZD402 '31' and ZD352 '19') of 1(F) Squadron '45A' has an impressive array of mission markings from its deployment to Afghanistan. It was leading 'Jedi Flight' of four Harriers which had earlier been down to the Manorbier Air Defence Range, the fourth Harrier did not come through but joined up with them later.

RAF Cottesmore in November 2010 on a crisp winters day.
Harrier GR.7A (ZD327 '08' 'SH-M') with a Battle of Britain code on the tail
Left to right: Harrier GR.9 (ZD327 '08' 'SH-M') of 800 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), Naval Strike Wing (NSW).
Left to right: Harrier GR.9 (ZD438 '50') of 800 NAS.
Left to right: Harrier GR.9 (ZG479 '69A' and ZG472 '62A') of 1(F) Squadron.
Left to right: Harrier GR.9 (ZD402 '31') of 1(F) Squadron. Harrier GR.9 (ZG857 'EB-Z') in 1(F) markings but stil with its previous 41(R) tail code and 'Observer Corps' titles under the cockpit.
Harrier GR.7A (ZD327 '08' 'SH-M')
(DSLR x1.6 sensor + Canon EF 300mm f2.8L plus x1.4 extender at 1/640 f7.1 -1 exposure compensation ISO 100).
Left to right: Unmarked Harrier GR.9s (ZG862 '94' and ZG502 '73').
Left to right: Harrier GR.9 (ZD438 '50') of 800 NAS.
Left to right: Harrier GR.9 (ZD438 '50') of 800 NAS.
Left to right: Harrier GR.9 (ZD438 '50') of 800 NAS.