Vertical challenges – part 2

Photo: An AV-8A aboard USS NASSAU (LHA 4). USMC


In our December issue is the concluding part of this two-part series, as Combat Aircraft looks back at how the US Marine Corps fielded the AV-8A Harrier.

The 1970s saw the US Marine Corps’ three AV-8A Harrier-equipped fighter-attack VMA squadrons seizing every opportunity to show off the aircraft and its unique capabilities as Marine Corps V/STOL Vertical Short Take-Off and Landing) evangelists looked for converts, writes Joe Copalman. Col Bill Spicer (ret’d), a veteran H-34 pilot who transitioned to the Harrier in 1974, recalled: ‘Our mission was to prove the concept. We had exercises just about anywhere we could possibly work from. One of the big ones was called ‘Solid Shield’. We would go down to LZ [Landing Zone] Bluebird, which was an 800-ft Marston matting strip that had six parking places with hides — parking spaces under a camouflage net. We operated out of there a lot. We operated off of Lyman Road down in Camp Lejeune.

‘On average,’ Spicer concludes, ‘when we would do exercises with Marines out there at Twentynine Palms or even down at Camp Lejeuene and other places, if they forward-deployed us, we were there within five minutes. Even if we had to launch off of an airfield like Bogue Field or somewhere like that, we would still be there in less than 15 minutes. But normally, when we were forward deployed we’d be there in five minutes. They loved it. I think we did a good job of proving the concept.’

Read the full story in our December issue, out now.

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