Marine Black Sheep Squadron Drops AV-8B Harriers, Picks Up F-35 Lightning IIs

The American military is rapidly modernizing its assets, and nowhere is this more visible than in the branches than operate their own aircraft. The Air Force (USAF) leads the way, of course, but the Marines (USMC) do not like to fall behind either.
AV-8B Harrier and F-35B Lightning II 6 photos
Photo: USMC/Samuel Ruiz
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At the end of March, it was time for an entire squadron to get a serious upgrade: Marine Attack Squadron 214 (VMA-214), part of the Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Ever since 1989, this crew has been taking to the air in AV-8B Harriers, the single-engine ground-attack aircraft introduced by what was earlier that decade McDonnell Douglas. That makes this machine not exactly as old as other planes now deployed by the military, but the lack of serious upgrades over the years makes it quite outdated.

The U.S. will not invest any more money in the Harriers (and other planes as well), as it seeks to streamline the fleet of flying weapons platforms. Among the planes to make it in the new era is the F-35 Lightning II, one of the few fifth-generation aircraft now in operation.

One of the latest units to join the F-35 Lightning II bandwagon is the said VMA-214, nicknamed Black Sheep, which last week was re-christened VMFA-214 (Marine Fighter Squadron 214), as it officially dropped the Harriers in favor of the F-35B variant of the fifth-gen.

"Having previously served in VMA-214 and flown the AV-8B for many years, the Black Sheep and the Harrier hold a special place in my heart," said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Bradford J. Gering, the commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

"As 3rd MAW says a bittersweet farewell to the Harrier, we are excited to increase our number of F-35B squadrons with the re-designation of VMFA-214."

The Black Sheep squadron is based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona, and has been formed in 1942. Its pilots served in all the major conflicts America has been involved in since.
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Editor's note: Gallery shows other AV-8B Harriers.

About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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