The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has officially retired 16 Harrier jets after more than 40 years of military service.

The Harriers will be decommissioned in 2011, and will be replaced by the joint strike fighter by the end of the decade.

The Harrier is a family of UK-designed military jet aircraft capable of vertical / short take-off and landing (V/STOL) via thrust vectoring.

The Harrier jets have been considered instrumental in the UK winning the Falklands War against Argentina in 1982, and have also taken part in operations in Sierre Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The RAF decision to retire the jets came after the government’s strategic defence and security review (SDSR) outlined the decision to scrap the joint force Harrier jet.

Axing the Harrier is expected to save £450m over the next four years and £900m in total.