Aviation Historian 10
L.Nordeen - Bird of Prey
The cutting edge of Marine Corps hardware in 1971; an AV-8A of VMA-513 formates with an A-4 Skyhawk of VMA-324 and an F-4 Phantom of VMFA-251, all up from their common base at MCAS Beaufort.
The legacy - a McDonnell Douglas/Boeing AV-8B Harrier II of VMA-231 leaps off the deck of amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) somewhere in the Atlantic in October 2014. The Harrier has played a major role in all USMC combat operations since its entry into service in 1971 and continues to be a vital asset for the US Marine Corps.
One of the fourth batch of AV-8As to be delivered, BuNo 159239 made its first flight on April 11, 1974, and operated with VMA-231; note the ‘‘Ace of Spades" motif on the nose. It was retired in 1986 and is currently on display at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
Five factory-fresh AV-8As of VMA-513 on the flightline at MCAS Beaufort in the first half of 1971. The first AV-8A arrived in the USA on January 21, 1971, and the last was delivered in November 1976. TOP A pair of "Aces” of VMA-231 fly along the distinctive North Carolina coastline near the unit’s base at Cherry Point in 1974.
A VMA-513 Harrier displays its Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. The AIM-9E was fitted with a scanning infrared sensor, which scanned independently as there was no radar equipment for it to be slaved to; the advantage was that the AV-8A did not have to be directly behind its adversary, as the missile locked on to its own targets.
A pair of "Aces” of VMA-231 fly along the distinctive North Carolina coastline near the unit’s base at Cherry Point in 1974.
Tigers at sea - AV-8As of VMA-542 operate from the Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship USS Guam (LPH-9) during trials of the Sea Control Ship concept in the mid-1970s. Note the fixed in flight­refuelling probe fitted for long-range operations.
AV-8A BuNo 159232 of VMA-231 aboard the Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship USS Saipan (LHA-2) in Norway during Exercise Teamwork 80 in August 1980. The unit embarked in USS Iwo Jima for its return voyage, stopping off at Yeovilton to cross-train with Royal Navy Sea Harriers before arriving in the USA in November 1980.
Harriers of VMA-513 in the Mojave Desert during Exercise Battle Cry, a six-week deployment to China Lake during 1972.
The "office" of the AV-8A was essentially the same as that of the RAF’s Harrier GR.1, as seen here with the seat removed. A Ferranti inertial navigation system (INS) display is mounted directly ahead of the control column and worked in conjunction with the Smiths head-up display (HUD) mounted atop the central instrument panel. The throttle and nozzle levers are located on the cockpit’s port side.
Two-seat TAV-8As of specialist Harrier training unit VMAT-203 await their next flight at Cherry Point. Established in 1975, VMAT-203 trained all USMC (and Spanish Navy) AV-8A pilots, the last completing the course in March 1985. The unit continues to train AV-8B pilots and maintenance crews. Wearing the unit’s "KD” tail code, these examples have had toned-down "stars and bars" applied.