G-VTOL’s visit to the Vikrant marked the first shipborne activity for a two-seat Harrier, the demonstrator being fitted with “the big motor”, the Rolls-Royce Pegasus 11, earlier production two-seaters having been fitted with the lower-thrust Pegasus 6 or 10 engine.
Those who experienced one of the author’s display routines in G-VTOL will be familiar with the “Farley climb”; the Harrier rises straight into a vertical climb while the undercarriage is swiftly retracted.
Surprisingly few photographs of G-VTOL aboard the Vikrant appear to have been taken, the aircraft being seen here aboard HMS Hermes during service release trials in 1977. Following its successful flights aboard the Vikrant, G-VTOL would go on to make numerous flights to sea, including to and from French and Australian carriers.
Although the Indian Navy was clearly impressed with the G-VTOL demo in 1972, it would be seven years before India would finally commit to the jump-jet in the form of an order for six Sea Harriers in 1979, the first of which was delivered in 1983.
The author brings G-VTOL on to the deck of INS Vikrant in July 1972. Note the white centreline, marked with measurements from the ship’s bow, which ran the axial length of the carrier. This, along with the white broken line to the left marked as a wingtip safety line, was applied specially for G-VTOL’s visit. The Vikrant was originally built for service with the Royal Navy as HMS Hercules, but was launched too late for World War Two and was subsequently mothballed until it was acquired by the Indian Navy in 1957.