View Full Version : Cherry Point gets one final Harrier

10-02-03, 07:21 AM
Cherry Point gets one final Harrier
October 01,2003

CHERRY POINT - With great fanfare and a few mixed emotions, the U.S. Marine Corps took delivery Tuesday of its last AV-8B Harrier jet at Cherry Point Air Station.

"It's been a great run," former Marine pilot Jack Jackson said during a mid-morning ceremony held to welcome the $23.7 million, last-of-its-kind warplane to the Craven County base.

Earlier, Jackson, who now works for Boeing, the plane's manufacturer, opened the ceremony by flying the jet over Cherry Point, showing off the jet's ability to hover over a target and to make near-vertical landings in small areas.

Tuesday's ceremony was held outside the hangar of Marine Attack Squadron 231, where the plane will be assigned. Joining squadron members and others from Cherry Point for the event were Boeing officials, who promised to provide excellent post-production help and support for the plane.

"We are up to the task," said Bob Feldmann, manager of Boeing's Harrier division. "We're not going away. You're going to see us here."

The AV-8B Harrier 2 Plus and its Harrier predecessors have been integral parts of the Marine Corps for nearly 20 years. With this final plane, the corps has taken delivery of 360 Harriers since 1985.

The Marine Corps used Harriers during recent operations in Iraq, and employed them during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and in more recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Bosnia.

The most modern versions of the Harrier are able to fly attack, surveillance and support missions during the day and night and in virtually any weather. Harriers are single-person planes, which means the pilot must also handle the jet's weapons.

Mixed reviews

The newest Harriers are remanufactured planes, meaning they've been retrofitted with new cockpits and fuselages, but have re-used wings, tails and landing gear.

Over the years, the planes have gotten mixed reviews for their safety record. But Cherry Point officials defend the Harriers, characterizing them as "ever-improving" and "extremely reliable."

Jackson, who flew the first Harrier to Cherry Point in 1985, said, "I have not seen it being a dangerous airplane."

Two Cherry Point Harriers have crashed this year, one in the Persian Gulf during the Iraq conflict and the other off the coast of Cape Lookout.

Both pilots suffered only minor injuries. Causes of the two crashes have not been released.

The Harriers are scheduled to be replaced within the next five to 10 years by the Joint Strike Fighter, which will be built by Boeing competitor Lockheed.

But Cherry Point officials predict their new plane and its Harrier counterparts will be used for years to come and probably in combat.

Lt. Col. Ben Hancock, commanding officer of the 231st, said his squadron's "Ace of Spades" insignia soon would be painted on the new plane, but it would not be assigned to an individual pilot.

While pilots' names often are painted on the sides of planes, squadron members general fly whichever planes are readied for the day's activities, Hancock said.

Boeing, meanwhile, plans to produce two more Harriers at its St. Louis plant. They are scheduled to be delivered to the Spanish navy.