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    USMC AV-8B Harrier makes Spectacular Final Public Appearance at Cherry Point Air Show

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    MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. – In a salute to its service legacy, the AV-8B Harrier performed its final public flight demonstration, showcasing its capabilities and thrilling aviation enthusiasts at the 2024 Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point Air Show.

    Just after noon on Sunday, an AV-8B Harrier captivated the audience with aerial maneuvers at near 400 miles per hour, executed by Lt. Col. Paul Truog of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 231, the “Ace of Spades.”

    Engaging in simulated attack runs, abrupt velocity shifts, and the signature hover-to-vertical-landing maneuver.

    Truog piloted the final demonstration of the Harrier using the last hydraulic flight control system in the U.S. military’s fighter inventory.

    “The Harrier squadron completed its last deployment in March with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which operated in the Middle East and Mediterranean Sea for more than eight months,” the report noted.

    The Harrier, a product of transatlantic engineering initially introduced in 1969.

    Has undergone significant enhancements to its AV-8B II-plus variant, including a Rolls Royce Pegasus 11 engine and advanced navigational and targeting systems.

    Its unique vertical/short-takeoff-and-landing (VSTOL) capabilities have long been valued for their flexibility in combat scenarios, where traditional runway use is impractical or impossible.

    At the air show, the audience of 80,000 was reminded by Capt. Michael Fucci, the event’s narrator, of the Harrier’s design ethos: “This aircraft was designed to land on highways, rearm, refuel and get back to the fight.”

    This versatility is reflected in the affection with which Harrier pilots regard the aircraft.Looking forward, the transition to the F-35B represents a generational shift in aviation technology.

    Maj. Zachary Ybarra, also of the VMFA-542 squadron and a former Harrier pilot, showcased the F-35’s capabilities during the same event.

    While the Harrier’s hydraulic controls imparted a “slight but noticeable wobble in the hover,” the fly-by-wire F-35B maintained a poised, unwavering hover.

    The Marine Corps Aviation Plan envisions VMA-231 commencing its transition to the F-35B within the following year, aiming for initial operational capability with six STOVL jets by the third quarter of Fiscal Year 2026.

    The final public performance culminated with another Harrier participating in a Marine Air-Ground Task Force demonstration.

    It simulated an attack run alongside CH-53E Super Stallion and CH-53K King Stallion helicopters, marking a spectacular end to the AV-8B’s public showings.

    Relevant articles:
    Final public performance USMC AV-8B , Scramble (NL), 05/15/2024
    8B Harrier at Cherry Point Air Show in Final Public Performance, USNI News, 05/14/2024

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