Harrier jets didn’t spell out expletive over Houses of Parliament

6 May 2022
What was claimed

A fleet of Harrier jump jets spelt “f*** off” in formation over the Houses of Parliament after they were decommissioned.

Our verdict

The picture is false, and such a protest never happened. The farewell flypast didn’t even pass London.

A post on Facebook claims to show the UK’s decommissioned Harrier jet fleet flying in a formation spelling “fuck off” over the Houses of Parliament.

The caption states: “The British government has scrapped the Harrier fleet and on their farewell formation flypast over the Houses of Parliament they gave the government a message.”

Despite being posted in 2013, the post has recently seen increased activity with additional  shares in recent days. According to fact checking site Snopes, who have written about this image a number of times in the past, it has been circulating online since at least 2011. 

The UK’s fleet of Harrier jump jets was decommissioned in 2011 as part of reductions to the defence budget. While this decision proved controversial with some people, the planes were never flown over Parliament in protest, and certainly not in the formation shown in the picture. 

A farewell flypast did take place in eastern England but didn’t pass over London, and weather conditions on the day were so poor that pilots couldn’t fly in formation below the cloud line. Furthermore, only 16 jets took part in the farewell flypast, while the picture shows 47 aircraft.

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