Marine Corps' "Widow-Maker": Harrier Attack Jet
(Source : Los Angeles Times; issued Dec. 13, 2002)

LOS ANGELES---On Sunday, Dec. 15, the Los Angeles Times will launch a major four-part series, "The Vertical Vision," chronicling the troubled history of the most dangerous airplane flying in the U.S. military today -- the Marine Corps' Harrier attack jet.

Known among some Marine aviators as "The Widow-Maker," the Harrier was originally produced by the British to perform short and vertical takeoffs and landings from remote clearings and glens.

Among the findings reported by Times staff writers Alan C. Miller in Washington, D.C., and Kevin Sack in Atlanta are:

--The Harrier has killed some of the country's most accomplished and promising Marine aviators. Many of those deaths were preventable.

--The airplane has suffered the highest major accident rate of any Air Force, Army, Navy or Marine plane now in service.

--The Harrier has failed to make a significant and distinctive contribution on the battlefield.

--Despite the Harrier's controversial history, the Marines are pushing ahead with a new generation of vertical-lift aircraft, including the V-22 Osprey troop transport whose revolutionary technology also has had deadly side effects.

Times reporters and researchers in Houston, London, Los Angeles, San Diego and Washington, D.C., contributed to the report.

The series publication schedule:
--Dec. 15 -- Deaths in training, disappointments in combat
--Dec. 16 -- What could go wrong has gone wrong with the Harrier
--Dec. 17 -- One pilot's story
--Dec. 18 -- The Marines keep their "vertical vision" alive

The series' first installment, as well as a comprehensive multimedia package, will be available online after 5 p.m. Dec. 14 at

The Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing company, is the largest metropolitan daily newspaper in the country and winner of 27 Pulitzer Prizes. It publishes four daily regional editions covering the Los Angeles metropolitan area, the San Fernando Valley, and Orange and Ventura counties as well as an Inland Valley section and a National Edition.


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