The game was originally released in arcades by UPL under the name Task Force Harrier in 1989. Two years later, Treco added the 'EX' and brought the game over to the Sega Genesis and Megadrive. The console port contained a number of significant differences, including altered cutscenes and the ability to place 'wingman' allies in four positions on screen instead of one as it was in arcades. Task Force Harrier EX was not a large commercial success, and has faded into relative obscurity in recent years.
Task Force Harrier has players take control of a Harrier Jump Jet and battle communist Russian forces bent on world domination. The Russians have the TU-190 bomber at their disposal, and pose enough of a threat to cause the United Nations to declare Defcon 2. The player is forced to unleash the full power of their Harrier jet to defeat the enemy before they achieve their nefarious goal.
Task Force Harrier is a classic vertical scrolling shooter, and plays very similarly to Raiden. The player's Harrier jet is equipped with machine guns, flash bombs, ground weapons and missiles, many which can be powered up throughout the course of the game. Additionally, the player has access to 'wingmen'- allies that can be positioned strategically onscreen and that will attack enemies with their own set of weapons. The stages of the game range from low to the ground battles to high altitutde encounters, all of which take place inside Russian territory.