THERE are calls for one of the Royal Navy’s old Harrier jump-jets to go on permanent display in Portsmouth.
The iconic aircraft were controversially axed in last year’s defence review and Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, wants one to be put on display at a busy location in the home of the Royal Navy.
He said: ‘I think it’s only right that we have a Harrier in Portsmouth on show somewhere close to the naval base to celebrate the Fleet Air Arm.
‘The Harrier demonstrates a fantastic era for naval aviation.
‘It played a valuable role for the Royal Navy for more than 30 years and I think one would look great on display down by the dockyard or even by the side of the motorway as you come into the city.’
The fate of the Harrier jets is still uncertain. The aircraft was taken out of service at the end of last year following the Strategic Defence and Security Review and 70 jets have been mothballed.
The Ministry of Defence is looking to sell the jets through its Defence Disposal Agency but no announcement has been made to that effect so far.
Meanwhile, high-level defence figures are understood to be exploring the possibility of saving some Harriers to be brought back into service with HMS Illustrious, as revealed in The News last month.
The plan to save one Harrier for display in Portsmouth has gone down well with veterans – including former Harrier pilot Commander Nigel ‘Sharkey’ Ward, who commanded 801 Naval Air Squadron from HMS Invincible during the Falklands War.
He said: ‘It’s a brilliant idea. It’s still not 100 per cent certain all the Harriers will remain out of service and the MoD is remaining very quiet about that. But they certainly won’t bring back all 70 of them so Portsmouth should get one.
‘The Falkland Islands are after one too and I think one there and one in Portsmouth would be great – and they shouldn’t be made to pay for them either.’
The Ministry of Defence said no final decision has been made on when the Harriers will be sold or how many will be put up for sale.
A spokesman said: ‘At the moment, nothing has been announced. We are looking at various options for their disposal.’