|When 801 NAS (Naval Air Squadron) disbanded on the 28th March 2006 the Sea Harrier FA2 was withdrawn from service. Eleven of the airframes went into storage at RAF Shawbury, nine went to RNAS Culdrose for use by the School Of Flight Deck Operations (SFDO) and the remaining airframes were sold to the private companies or donated to museums.Two airframes had a different fate. ZH800 and ZH801 were preserved to act as hanger guardians for 800 NAS and 801 NAS when they reformed at RAF Cottesmore on the Harrier GR7 / GR9. It was no coincidence that the serials chosen matched the number of the air squadrons to be reformed.
What happened next is not clear but what is known is that ZH800 and ZH801 had their serials swapped over. I’ve heard two suggestions of why this happened.
The first is a simple mistake occurred when the airframes went for painting. ZH800 was painted in 801 NAS colours and ZH801 was painted in 800 NAS colours. Rather than repainting them it was easier just to ‘swap’ the serials.
The second is that the serials were swapped because ZH800 hadn’t served with 800 NAS and ZH801 hadn’t served with 801 NAS. I believe this may not be correct. ZH801 wearing the code 006 was reported as being one of the Sea Harriers assigned to 801 NAS in 2001 as part of Exercise Saif Sareea II. Of course this doesn’t mean that ZH800 served with 800 NAS.
Both Harriers are now acting as hanger guardians for the Naval Strike Wing at RAF Cottesmore.
Sea Harrier FA2 ZH800 (Marked as ZH801)
Finished it’s service with 801 NAS in 899 NAS colours and coded 713. Repainted in 801 NAS colours with the code 001 and serial changed to ZH801 to match the squadron colours. Left Yeovilton at the end of March 2006 and went on display at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.
Moved from Greenwich to RAF Cottesmore in preparation of 801 NAS reforming in October 2006.
801 NAS didn’t reform in October 2006 and together with 800 NAS formed the Naval Strike Wing on 9th March 2007. At this stage ZH800 was still stored inside the Naval Strike Wing hanger at Cottesmore along with ZH801. Later in 2007 it was placed as a hanger guardian at the back of the NSW hanger (as shown in the right hand photo)
Sea Harrier FA2 ZH801 (Marked as ZH800)
Withdrawn from use in 2004 whilst wearing 800 NAS colours and coded 125. Stored at RNAS Yeovilton where it was used for spares until the Sea Harrier was retired from service in 2006 when it was put back together and repainted again in 800 NAS colours with the code 001.
It was shipped to Cottesmore in 2006 where it was stored in the Naval Strike Wing hanger until being moved to act as a hanger guardian for the front of the NSW hanger (as shown in the right hand photo).
The left hand photo is from the Falkands 25 event at Cottesmore.