The mission of the VMA STOVL squadron is to attack and destroy surface and air targets, to escort helicopters, and to conduct other such air operations as may be directed. Specific tasks of the AV-8B Harrier II include:
- Conduct close air support using conventional and specific weapons.
- Conduct deep air support, to include armed reconnaissance and air interdiction, using conventional and specific weapons.
- Conduct offensive and defensive antiair warfare. This includes combat air patrol, armed escort missions, and offensive missions against enemy ground-to-air defenses, all within the capabilities of the aircraft.
- Be able to operate and deliver ordnance at night and to operate under instrument flight conditions.
- Be able to deploy for extended operations employing aerial refueling.
- Be able to deploy to and operate from carriers and other suitable seagoing platforms, advanced bases, expeditionary airfields, and remote tactical landing sites.
- Operation Desert Storm in 1991 was highlighted by expeditionary air operations performed by the AV-8B. The Harrier II was the first Marine Corps tactical strike platform to arrive in theater, and subsequently operated from various basing postures. Three squadrons, totaling 60 aircraft, and one six-aircraft detachment operated ashore from an expeditionary airfield, while one squadron of 20 aircraft operated from a sea platform. During the ground war, AV-8Bs were based as close as 35 nautical miles (40.22 miles) from the Kuwait border, making them the most forward deployed tactical strike aircraft in theater. The AV-8B flew 3,380 sorties for a total of 4,083 flight hours while maintaining a mission capable rate in excess of 90 percent. Average turnaround time during the ground war surge rate flight operations was 23 minutes.
The AV-8B V/STOL strike aircraft was designed to replace the AV-8A and the A-4M light attack aircraft. The Marine Corps requirement for a V/STOL light attack force has been well documented since the late 1950s. Combining tactical mobility, responsiveness, reduced operating cost and basing flexibility, both afloat and ashore, V/STOL aircraft are particularly well suited to the special combat and expeditionary requirements of the Marine Corps. The AV-8BII+ features the APG-65 Radar common to the F/A-18, as well as all previous systems and features common to the AV-8BII.
Primary Function: Close air support/intermediate range intercept/attack mission.
Contractor: McDonnell Douglas Aircraft (Airframe Prime), Rolls Royce (Engine Prime)
Date Deployed: First Flight: 25 May 1968; Operational Capability: July 1971.
TAV-8B/AV-8B Day Attack (DA): One Rolls Royce Pegasus F402-RR-406 turbofan engine with approximately 20,280 pounds of thrust.
AV-8B Night Attack (NA)/AV-8B Radar: One Rolls Royce Pegasus F402-RR-408A turbofan engine with approximately 22,200 pounds of thrust
Length: 46 ft. 4 in. (14.12 m)
Height: 11 ft. 8 in. (3.55 m)
Wingspan: 30 ft. 4 in. (9.25 m)