Nov 4, 2014

U.S. Marines to Retire Harrier Fleet Earlier Than Planned, Extend Life of Hornets

The U.S. Marine Corps will phase out the AV-8B Harrier II by 2025 — about five years earlier than planned — and will instead extend the life of its fleet of aging Boeing F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters, according to the service’s recently released 2015 aviation plan.
In previous years, the service had said it would replace its increasingly older fleet of original model Boeing F/A-18A – D Hornet strike fighters before retiring the Harriers before replacing both fighters with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).
Now, the Harrier will be retired in 2025 and the Hornets will hang on until 2029 for the active duty Marines.
The Marine short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B is planned to operational in the summer of 2015 will eventually replace the Harrier.
The Hornets will finally leave the Marine inventory in 2030 when the reserve component transitions to the F-35B.
The first Harrier squadron to transition to the F-35B will be VMA-211, which will make the switch in Fiscal Year 2016 (FY 2016). If all goes according to plan, the entire West Coast Harrier force will transition to the JSF by 2020.
The remaining East Coast Harriers will be retired 2025. In the meantime—since the AV-8B still has another 11 years to go in service—the Marines will focus on improving the fleet’s readiness.
The Marines will also continue to modernize the aging jet. The jet will receive new ALE-47 V2 countermeasures dispenser, ALR-67 radar warning receivers and ALQ-164 electronic countermeasures pods. The Harriers will also be modified with variable message format terminals, full Link-16 data-link capability and possibly the Tactical Targeting Network Technologies high-speed data-link.
With full integration of the fourth generation Litening pod, it will be able to self-designate the AGM-65E missiles and GBU-54 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
The Marines are also planning on integrating the AIM-120C/D AMRAAM and AIM-9X Block II air-to-air missiles onto the AV-8B. Flight testing of the AMRAAM onboard the Harrier is slated for 2016.

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