View Full Version : Marine Harrier Pilots, Mechanics On Call 24/7

09-17-03, 06:26 AM
Marine Harrier Pilots, Mechanics On Call 24/7

By U.S. Army Sgt. Greg Heath / 4th Public Affairs Detachment
BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2003 -- For the past year, Marine Attack Wing (VMA) 513, has been providing close-air support for coalition ground forces throughout Afghanistan.

On call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Marine pilots and mechanics on Bagram are responsible for keeping their AV-8 Harrier jets ready to fly anywhere at a moments notice.

The Marine Corps is the only U.S. military service that flies the harrier, which differ from other fighter jets in that it can make vertical take-offs and landings, similar to a helicopter, along with doing a normal airstrip take-off. The Marines, who are typically the first American military force ashore in times of war, benefit from the aircrafts ability to land practically anywhere.

“All we have to do is push inland and secure a road or build an expeditionary airfield to land the harrier,” said Capt. Toby Moore, harrier pilot, VMA 513. “The harrier can land on an area only two or three feet outside the (landing tires).”

The Marines, out of Yuma Marine Corps Air Station in Arizona, arrived here September last year and have been flying missions non-stop since then.

Armed with 1000-pound laser guided bombs and with the 25mm gatling gun in which each high-explosive round fired is like a hand grenade when impacting the target, the harriers are an extremely lethal asset to coalition ground forces, according to Moore.

“If we have the target in sight, whether day or night, you can pretty much guarantee we’re going to put that bomb on a target,” Moore said.

Along with carrying a lethal arsenal, the harriers also serve as an audible deterrent to anti-coalition forces. The shrill whine of the jet engine can scare off enemy forces, according to Moore, “We actually got a letter from some troops (at an outpost here) who said that whenever they heard us overhead they never got bothered.”

Their harrier units mission tempo in Afghanistan is vastly different from what they’re used to back in their home station.

During a pretty busy year back in the states, a pilot fly between 150-200 hours, according to Moore, but out here all the pilots will exceed 350 hours.

And with the extra flight hours in Afghanistan’s austere conditions, it has produced a lot of long days and nights for the harrier maintenance Marines.

“The harrier is easily the most labor-intensive aircraft in the U.S. arsenal,” Cpl. Berj Merjanian, harrier mechanic. “For every four flight hours, 100 man hours of maintenance is needed to service each aircraft.”

The Marines also have to deal with keeping the flightline clear of debris or anything that could be sucked into the harrier’s low-seated jet engine.

As a testament to the seamless hard work displayed by both the pilots and mechanics, the VMA 513 has performed more flight hours in a year in Afghanistan than all of the harriers in the Marine Corps this year combined, according to Merjanian. Even though the VMA 513 have been working practically non-stop for an entire year, they’re proud of their part in the mission, Merjanian added..


U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Shawn Harper, of the Marine Attack Wing (VMA) 513th works on a harrier in a Bagram hanger. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Greg Heath




Sgt Sostand
09-17-03, 11:42 AM
Nothing less only the best