Tag Archives: Flying Nightmares

Once upon a time: Marine AV-8A Harriers Testing Sea Control Ship Concept

We’ve covered the trials and deployment of a Marine Hawker Siddeley AV-8A Harrier squadron, the Aces of VMA-231, on the Iwo Jima-class phib USS Guam (LPH-9) in 1976 on numerous occasions.

Part of CNO Elmo Zumwalt’s “Sea Control Ship” concept that would provide a Cold War-era evolution to the escort carrier concept for convoy protection and ASW hunter-killer teams, the basic idea was to turn these small (18,000-tons, 592-feet oal) flattops into economical CVEs overnight through the fly-on of a Harrier det for air defense/surface strike and a Sea King SH-3 ASW/SAR element.

The technology was there, with Harrier making its first test landings on British flattops as far back as 1963, the RAF’s GR1 entering service in 1969, and the Royal Navy ordering its first two dozen navalised 24 Sea Harrier FRS.1 (Fighter, Reconnaissance, Strike) aircraft in 1975.

Hawker P1127 making the first ever vertical landing by a jet aircraft an a carrier at sea on HMS Ark Royal in February 1963. IWM A 34711

Of course, Zumwalt wanted some dedicated SCS hulls, but, barring the shipbuilding dollars, the Iwo Jimas could work in a pinch.

Planned Sea Control Ship concept, art

Planned Sea Control Ship concept, model

Sea control ship outline, Janes ’73

The entry for Iwo Jima-class LPH USS Guam as an interim sea control ship in the 1973-74 Jane’s

Well, prior to VMA-231 shipping out on Guam, the Marines ran an extensive evaluation trial in March 1971 on her sister, USS Guadalcanal (LPH-7). I recently came across about 30 minutes of color footage from those trials, involving the “Flying Nightmares” of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 513, from MACS Beaufort– the first American Harrier squadron– in the National Archives.

Check out this screengrab:

Now that’s a beautiful aircraft. Dig those full-color roundels and the Marine crest. The British-made AV-8A was essentially the same as the RAF’s Harrier GR.1 with very few changes. Keep in mind the first Marine Harrier arrived in the USA on 21 January 1971, just two months before this trial, and the last was delivered in November 1976. 

The videos show ordnance in play, lots of short take-offs and vertical landings of camouflaged early British-built AV-8As, and even some night operations.



Own a Flying Nightmare

A U.S. Marine Corps Vought F4U-5N Corsair night fighter of Marine night fighter squadron VMF(N)-513 Flying Nightmares on the flight line at Wonsan, Korea, on 2 November 1950.

A slugger, the gull-winged F4U-5 was the first post-WWII Corsair to enter production, filled with lessons learned from combat use in that conflict. Some 538 were produced of which 315 converted to the -5NL configuration with a wing-mounted radar for nighttime operations and other tweaks including winterizing– both of which would come in very handy in Korea.

Speaking of which, Bu.124541, as detailed by Warbirds News, spent more than 200 hours with the Flying Nightmares in Korea before she was charged off and transferred to the Argentine Navy in 1958 for operations from the Colossus-class carrier ARA Independencia (ex-HMS/HMCS Warrior).

The Argies kept her on the books until 1966, then she spent a period in storage before weathering life as a gate guard at the Museo del la Aviacion Naval in Buenos Aries before she was purchased by a French group of aviation enthusiasts in the 1990s.

Extensively restored, today she carries her historic VMF 513 livery, sans the radar dome which was deleted in the late 1960s.

F4U-5NL Bu.124541 via Platinum Fighters

F4U-5NL Bu.124541 via Platinum Fighters

Best yet, this flyable Corsair is airworthy and for sale at Platinum Fighters, just don’t ask how much.