Time to replace aging Harriers with new aircraft
The community is grateful that the crash of an AV-8B Harrier aircraft this week northwest of Yuma did not result in serious harm to the pilot or damage to a populated area, but it could be a reminder of the need for a change in the Marine air fleet.
The pilot, here on a training mission from MCAS Cherry Point in North Carolina, safely ejected as the aircraft crashed into the desert about 15 miles from Yuma. He was flying to the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range in California.
Fortunately, even though the plane was armed with two 500-pound bombs, they did not explode in the crash. The plane was a total loss and Marine authorities are saying an initial investigation indicates the accident was due to a mechanical failure involving the aircraft.
The nature of the mechanical failure has not been released, nor do we know the cause of it is at this time.
But what we do know is that Harrier jets are approaching the end of their service life and that the Marines have wanted a replacement for them for years. The first AV-8B Harriers were delivered to the Marines some three decades ago and have been in service since then, both in peacetime and time of war. Their vertical takeoff/landing capability made them especially useful for the Marines.
Their replacement — the F35B — is now in the pipeline and MCAS Yuma will be one of the first bases to receive some of them, likely by the end of the year. It is a short takeoff and vertical landing version of the Joint Strike Force fighter jet that will be used by the Marines, the Navy and the Air Force in coming years.
The new fighter jets will be state of the art and will give the Marines the ability to do an even better job of protecting our nation.
The Harriers have had a long and useful life. But the reality is that they are not optimal and they are expensive to maintain due to their age. Flight crews work tirelessly to ensure their safety, but there are limits to all mechanical equipment. It is definitely time for them to be replaced.