There’s eleven more years left for the US Marines Corps (USMC) fleet of AV-8B Harriers, according to the recently released Marine Aviation Plan 2015. Instead of prolonging the jump jet’s life until 2029, the USMC chooses to ditch the type in 2025 and hang to its F/A-18 Hornets in the next decade.
Analysis shows this decision saves the US taxpayer well over 1 billion USD through 2030. The AV-8Bs will likely be modified to use the AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9X air-to-air missiles. Also, the overall readiness will be increased and new electronic warfare stuff added, but that’ll be it in terms of future updates. The Harrier’s role will still be largely limited to air-to-ground, supporting troops on the ground.
In 2016, Yuma-based Harrier squadron VMA-211 will transfer to the F-35B with other West coast squadron following by 2020. By 2025, also East coast squadrons will say their good byes to the jump jet.
It’s up to the Hornet to fill the gap between the Harrier’s departure and full operation capability of the F-35, of which the USMC hopes to order over 400, both VSTOL F-35Bs and naval F-35Cs. The Hornets, varying from old ‘A’ models to newer ‘D’ attack models, will have to be extensively overhauled though, with center barrel replacements necessary for a good number of them.
The service life of over 240 Hornets will be prolonged til over 8,000 flight hours. Another program will lengthen the life of another 150 hand picked C and D model Hornet to 10,000 hours. All these programs take their toll on the current Hornet fleet, as the USMC says it is now about 40 Hornets short.
© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest