With the entry into service of the F-35B Lightning II, the time of the aging McDonnell Douglas AV-8 Harrier II is coming to an end.
Today this aircraft remains operational in the United States Marines and in the Spanish and Italian Navies, as well as in the VX-31 test squadron of the US Navy. The United Kingdom retired its last Harrier IIs from service in 2011. Since 1985, the US Marines have operated more than 300 Harrier IIs, a model with which they have had a very high number of accidents: 148 in total, with a total of 110 aircraft destroyed or damaged beyond repair. In those accidents, 45 Marine aviators lost their lives.
Currently, of the nine Marine squadrons that operated the Harrier II, only two remain that maintain these aircraft: the VMA-223 "Bulldogs" and the VMA-231 "Ace of Spades", both with based at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina. The first of them plans to retire its Harrier IIs from service in 2027 and the second in 2026. A Harrier II from VMA-223 participated earlier this month at the Cleveland National Air Show, in Cleveland (Ohio). AirshowStuffVideos published the video of this exhibition yesterday, noting that "this may have been the final demo by a Harrier at a civilian show site":
You can see a couple of screenshots from the video here. Here we see the Harrier II in hover.
As a curiosity, the VMA-223 carries a rising sun on the rudder of its drift, an image reminiscent of the flag of the Japanese Navy, which became famous in World War II. VMA-223 wears that insignia as a reminder of its participation in that war in the Pacific theater, in which it earned two Presidential Unit Citations.
VMA-223 visited Spain on two occasions: in 1989, aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA-4), and in 1991, as part of a detachment at the Rota Naval Base on the occasion of Operation Desert Storm. Those of us who have seen this plane flying can consider ourselves very lucky, it is an unforgettable spectacle. We are going to miss it.
Don't miss the news and content that interest you. Receive the free daily newsletter in your email:
The mail subscription service to Counting Stars will allow you to receive in your mailbox a daily email with the new posts published in this blog. It is a free service. Once you have entered your email in this box and press the "Click to subscribe" black button, you will receive a confirmation email in your mailbox to activate your subscription. If at any time you want to unsubscribe, you only just have to click the link that you will find at the bottom of each newsletter.