A fighter of the 9th Squadron of the Spanish Navy flew with an RAF F-35B

The admired flight of a Spanish Harrier II with an F-35B, its expected replacement

This Friday we saw the exhibition of a Harrier II of the Spanish Navy at The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT).

The applauded exhibition of a Harrier II of the Spanish Navy in the United Kingdom
What will happen to the red and yellow roundels if Spain decides to buy the F-35?

This edition of the famous British air festival, one of the largest in the world, has had another moment that has generated great expectation and that has also had the presence of the Spanish Navy: the flight of an EAB-8B+ Harrier II Spanish Plus from the 9th Squadron next to a British Royal Air Force (RAF) F-35B fighter.

The protagonists of this fabulous picture, very rare to see, were the Spanish Harrier II VA.18-6, the same one we saw in its applauded exhibition this Friday, and the F-35B ZM154 of the 207 Squadron RAF, a unit older than the air force to which it belongs and which started its journey on December 31, 2016 as part of the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS), being transferred to the RAF the same day it was founded, on April 1, 1918.

Tonkatsu298 has published an excellent video in 4K quality of this joint exhibition between the Spanish Harrier II and the British F-35B:

TheFighterCommunity has also posted a 4K video of this display today:

BAE Systems Air has published a series of photos of this exhibition, which you can see below.

The admired joint flight of the two SVTOL aircraft.

The hover exhibition of the Spanish Harrier II.

The British F-35B hover display.

The spectacular moment of takeoff of the Spanish Harrier II.

Although now the purchase of the F-35B is accelerated, they would already be late

The Spanish Navy is the only operator of the Harrier II that has not yet confirmed the purchase of the F-35B, something that the RAF and the British Royal Navy have done (both already retired their Harrier II years ago ), the US Marines and the Italian Air Force and Navy. In August 2021, commanders of the Spanish Navy met in the US with the military chief of the F-35 program, in a clear gesture of the interest of the Spanish naval force for this fighter, the only SVTOL aircraft on the market and, therefore, the only possible substitute for the Spanish Harrier IIs.

The joint display of the British F-35B and the Spanish Harrier II at RIAT 2023 (Image: Tonkatsu298).

In October 2022, the general State budget contemplated a item of 6,250 million euros for a substitute for the EF-18 and the Spanish Harrier II, but without indicating which aircraft would replace them, a mystery that remains to this day, since the government of Pedro Sánchez has allowed time to pass and finally the legislature has concluded without confirming the purchase of the F-35B. In 2020 the Spanish Navy already indicated that it would need the F-35 in 5 or 6 years, due to the end of the operational life of the Harrier II. Three years later, even if the new government that emerges from the elections on July 23 confirms the purchase of the F-35B as soon as possible, the planes would already be late.


Main photo: BAE Systems Air.

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