The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) AV-8B Harrier II is a family of second-generation vertical/short takeoff and landing or V/STOL ground-attack aircraft of the late 20th century. An American-British development of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier and Sea Harrier, it is primarily used for light attack or multi-role tasks, and is typically operated from small aircraft carriers, large amphibious assault ships and austere forward operating bases.
Although the AV-8B Harrier II shares the designation with the earlier AV-8A/C Harrier, the AV-8B was extensively redesigned from the previous-generation Harrier GR.1A/AV-8A/C by McDonnell Douglas. British Aerospace joined the improved Harrier project in the early 1980s, and it has been managed by Boeing/BAE Systems since the 1990s.
The AV-8B is used by the United States Marine Corps. The British Harrier GR7/GR9 versions were used by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. Versions are also used by NATO countries: Spain and Italy. The Harrier family models are referred to commonly as the "Harrier Jump Jet".
The AV-8B Harrier II is used by the military forces of three nations. The United States Marine Corps has operated the AV-8B and TAV-8B since 1985. The Spanish Naval air wing (Arma Aérea De La Armada) operates the AV-8B and AV-8B+, as well as a leased TAV-8B. The Italian Navy air wing (Aviazione di Marina Militare) also uses the AV-8B+ and TAV-8B. See BAE Harrier II for British Royal Air Force and Royal Navy usage.
The Harrier has had an accident rate that was three times that of the Marine Corps' other airplane, the F/A-18 Hornet. The AV-8 was dubbed a widow maker by some in the military. The Harrier's high accident rate is largely due to the higher percentage of time it spends taking off and landing, which are the most critical times in flight.
During the Gulf War, 5 AV-8Bs were lost in combat and two Marine pilots were killed. The AV-8B had an attrition rate of 1.5 aircraft for every 1000 sorties flown