U.S. Marine Corps Negotiates Buying Decommissioned British Harriers

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The British Harrier GR-9A is are similar in configuration to the U.S. Marine Corps’ AV-8B night attack version. Their ground attack capabilities are similar and the two also share a common engine. Photo: UK MOD
The U.S. Marine corps plans to maintain the AV-8B Harrier in service through the 2020s. Photo: U.S. Marine Corps

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have agreed to buy Britain’s entire decommissioned fleet of 74 Harrier GR-9 and 9A Vertical/Short take off and Landing (V/STOL) fighter jets – a move expected to help the Corps operate Harrier jump jets into the mid-2020s and possibly replace aging two-seat F-18D Hornet strike fighters currently used for night attacks, Navy Times reports. A spokesman for the British Ministry of Defence confirmed the Disposal Services Agency was in talks with the U.S. Navy for the sale of the Harriers, their engines and spare parts. The Corps is planning on phasing out its Harriers by 2025, and the current acquisition could provide an essential stock of spare parts and airframes at bargain price, sustaining the Corps combat air fleet as the service moves through the uncertainty of the current fiscal years.

The British Harrier GR-9A is are similar in configuration to the U.S. Marine Corps’ AV-8B night attack version. Their ground attack capabilities are similar and the two also share a common engine. Photo: UK MOD

The Marine Corps currently fly the AV-8B, a U.S. variant of the British V/STOL design built by McDonnell Douglas and British Aerospace. Britain retired its entire Harrier GR-9, 9A and Sea Harrier fleet in 2010 under the controversial Strategic Defense & Security Review (SDSR), that mandated deep cuts through all three services. The retired Harriers are stored at Royal Air Force Base Cottesmore, England where they have been maintained in airworthy status. The U.S. will get the entire Harrier’s spares stocks for $50 million. The cost of the aircraft is still being negotiated.

According to British Defence Procurement Minister Peter Luff, the Marine Corps use the ex. British Harriers as a source of spares to support the US Marine Corps Harrier AV-8B fleet of aircraft. As such, they will ‘harvest’ the Harriers for their spare parts for the next ten years. The total value of the transfer is $180 million (£110 million), Luff confirmed. A total of 70 Harriers were upgraded in the past 10 years but only 40 were still serviceable to fly when the fleet was axed last year. The latest upgraded model, GR 9A is similar in configuration to the Marines’ AV-8B night attack version. Although the British variants lack the radar carried with the AV-8B, their ground attack capabilities are similar. Furthermore, the 9A shares a common engine with the AV-8B – the Rolls-Royce F402-RR-408.

2nd Marine Aircraft Wing AV-8Bs refueling on 'Mailed Fist I-11' training mission. Photo: Scott Carlton Youmans, USMC