The US Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II fleet is set to remain in service until 2026, the time frame F-35B squadrons are expected to come to full strength, and assume the Harrier II ground attack role. The AV-8B II fleet will likely out service the F/A-18C/D Hornet air frames that suffered from maintenance issues in past years, most have also accumulated flight hours sooner then expected, shortening service life. Until 2026 USMC Harriers will continue with their current missions profiles of close air support and air interdiction in support of the newer F-35B.
AV-8B Harrier II air frames are set to last longer due to improved maintenance conditions. The USMC received an abundance of spare parts when the UK Royal Navy and Air Force retired 71 Harrier air frames in 2012. These air frames provide maintenance crews with common structural components to ensure USMC fleet readiness.
The AV-8B fleet was introduced into USMC service in 1985 with night attack upgrades being implemented in 1988. The AN/APG-66 equipped AV-8B+ variant was introduced in 1996. Production continued until 2001 with the newest air frames now at least 18 years old. The AV-8Bs vertical takeoff and landing operation made it an attractive choice for the US Marine Corps who require a forward-deployed attack aircraft to provide close air support at short notice.
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