18 September 2009

In November 1976 a squadron exchange took place when the RAF Harrier GR.1-equipped No. 1(F) Squadron brought four Harrier GR.1s and a T.2 to Dijon AB in France. In a time-honored tradition of "zapping" the other unit's aircraft with some sort of temporary marking, one of the RAF crew drew a cartoon Harrier attempting to mate with the stork tail marking of the host unit, a Mirage IIIE of Escadre de Chasse 1/2 Cigones.

The night before the departure of the RAF crew, while the British guest were kept busy with the reception, a group of French air force personnel set to work on the Harrier T.2. The following morning when they arrived at the ramp, the RAF found their Harrier T.2 completely painted pink- the markings were masked and not overpainted and three coats were used- one sprayed and two applied with a roller. Amidst a festive departure (which included a low flyby of Dijon with the pink Harrier T.2 leading the GR.1s) the exchange group returned to RAF Wittering to great amusement of the personnel in attendance.

The squadron commander, however, felt less than amused. He ordered that no one from the exchange group would go home for the weekend until the pink Harrier was returned to its original scheme. However, it was discovered the French had used an emulsion based paint rather than a water-based paint and despite an entire weekend of effort, the pink Harrier ended having to be resprayed in its gray/green disruptive camouflage color as the pink paint settled in every panel line despite the efforts at removal.

Source: BAe/McDonnell Douglas Harrier by Andy Evans. The Crowood Press Ltd, 1998 (Crowood Aviation Series), p40-41.

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