Tag Archives: Harrier

Plumbing the Archives (and finding some gems!)

While I spend a lot of time digging through various archives, a new one is proving interesting. While the Associated Press’s video news archive on YouTube has been around since 2015 and has chalked up over 2 billion views, it is normally ho-hum at best, simply reposting the latest Hollywood gossip or political talking head that aired three days ago.

However, they have been blitzing the channel almost every morning for the past couple of weeks with some great short clips from the 1960s and 70s.

Among the more interesting gems I’ve noticed popping up lately (and getting single-digit views no less!):

The very early XV-6A (P1127) Harrier prototypes doing landing tests on the supercarrier USS Independence (CV-62) in June 1966.

An XB-70A Valkyrie prototype (#AV-2) crash out of Edwards AFB in the same month, featuring amazing footage of both AV-1 and AV-2 in flight.

The newly-commissioned (and soon to be tragically lost) Skipjack-class nuclear-powered submarine USS Scorpion (SSN-589) cruising on the surface.

A May 1974 clip of the amphibious assault ships USS Inchon (LPH-12) and Iwo Jima (LPH-2) in the Suez operating RH-53D minesweeper birds of HM-12 in an effort to clear the canal of mines sown in the Yom Kippur War, including a shot of Iwo with no less than seven big Sikorsky’s on her deck. The TF65 (Operation Nimbus Star) mission saw HM-12 sweep some 7,600 linear miles in about 500 hours of on-station time.

B-52 Strat carpet bombings in the jungle outside of Saigon in Nov. 1965, with fighter escort from an F-100 Super Sabre.

Israeli self-propelled artillery guns of the Yom Kippur War era including rare Soltam L-33 Ro’ems which were M4 Sherman tanks modded with a huge hull and a 155mm L/33 howitzer.

April 1978 clip of white-painted UN-marked French Panhard armored cars (including some 90mm gun-armed variants) rolling off an LST into Beirut

And a longer August 1978 piece on the Panavia Tornado– likely early prototype XX946– in tests with the RAF, including some great low-level passes at MOD Boscombe Down. Keep in mind that the RAF only accepted their first two production Tornado in July 1980.

Harrier II at 40

Prototype AV-8B Harrier II pictured in front of a hangar at McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis, Missouri. Offering double the payload and combat radius of its predecessor, the AV-8B made its maiden flight on 9 November 1978, some 40 years ago today.

The above model was one of two generations and six main variants of the “jump jet” produced between the prototype Hawker Siddeley P.1127 first flew in 1960 and the Harrier II ended production in 1997. With less than 900 of all types produced, a Harrier in any condition is a rare bird indeed.

early Harrier Kestrel

While Harriers once served with the Indian Navy, Italian Navy, Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, Royal Thai Navy, Royal Spanish Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps, just the Corps (124) and the Italians (30) still operate late-model aircraft refurbished in the 2000’s.

A U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II aircraft assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 166 sits on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) in the Arabian Sea Oct. 20, 2013. The Boxer was underway in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Michael Schwartz, U.S. Navy/Released)

They are expected to be replaced by the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II within the next decade.

Marines give the F-35 the thumbs up, first to cert it for IOC


The U.S. Marine Corps’ F-35B Lightning II aircraft reached initial operational capability July 31, 2015 with a squadron of 10 F-35Bs ready for world-wide deployment.

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), based in Yuma, Arizona, is the first squadron in military history to become operational with an F-35 variant, following a five-day Operational Readiness Inspection, which concluded July 17.

“I am pleased to announce that VMFA-121 has achieved Initial Operational Capability in the F-35B, as defined by requirements outlined in the June 2014 Joint Report to Congressional Defense Committees,” said Gen. Joseph Dunford, Commandant of the Marine Corps. “VMFA-121 has ten aircraft in the Block 2B configuration with the requisite performance envelope and weapons clearances, to include the training, sustainment capabilities, and infrastructure to deploy to an austere site or a ship. It is capable of conducting Close Air Support, Offensive and Defensive Counter Air, Air Interdiction, Assault Support Escort and Armed Reconnaissance as part of a Marine Air Ground Task Force, or in support of the Joint Force.”

Dunford stated that he has his full confidence in the F-35B’s ability to support Marines in combat, predicated on years of concurrent developmental testing and operational flying.

“Prior to declaring IOC, we have conducted flight operations for seven weeks at sea aboard an L-Class carrier, participated in multiple large force exercises, and executed a recent operational evaluation which included multiple live ordnance sorties,” said Dunford. “The F-35B’s ability to conduct operations from expeditionary airstrips or sea-based carriers provides our Nation with its first 5th generation strike fighter, which will transform the way we fight and win.”

The U.S. Marine Corps has trained and qualified more than 50 Marine F-35B pilots and certified about 500 maintenance personnel to assume autonomous, organic-level maintenance support for the F-35B.

VMFA-121’s transition will be followed by Marine Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211), an AV-8B squadron, which is scheduled to transition to the F-35B in fiscal year 2016. In 2018, VAM-311 will conduct its transition to the F-35B.

No matter how you feel about them personally, production seems to be moving right along. For instance, BAE Systems’ F-35 Lightning II facility in Samlesbury, England just completed their 200th rear fuselage. That’s right, in case you didn’t know, each F-35 has an English ass.

I just keep telling myself that when they introduced the F4U Corsair (which had its share of teething problems and was for several years considered unsafe for carrier operations), I’m sure there were some Navy and Marine pilots that would have preferred to keep their Brewster Buffaloes and F4F Wildcats.

And truth be told, the Harrier caught a lot of flack for thirty years over its own perceived issues, so overall, I guess the beat goes on.

Ever seen a Harrier crashland on a stool?

We all know and love the AV-8B Harrier and its half-brother AV-8A/Sea Harrier/Matador kin. Well, recently Marine Capt. William Mahoney, of VMM-263 (Reinforced), attached to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), had to perform Vertical Landing on USS Bataan, after his AV-8B Harrier aircraft experienced a front landing gear malfunction. So they gave him a stool…