As the Marine Corps Says Goodbye to Decades-Old Jet, Its Maintainers Hit the Fleet for the Last Time

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The final class of maintainers for the AV-8B Harrier II’s F-402 engine
The final class of maintainers for the AV-8B Harrier II’s F-402 engine stand for a group photo with the course instructors and Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training leaders during a graduation ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, Jan. 29, 2024. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lauralle Walker)

The Marine Corps is saying goodbye to a decades-old jet, and Marines who work on its engine will soon enter the fleet for the last time.

The AV-8B Harrier II jet has been in service since the 1980s, according to the Marine Corps. As the service modernizes into a lighter expeditionary force and focuses its attention on the F-35B Lightning II, the Corps is getting rid of the older jet.

After a 60-day course, five Marines who will now work on Harrier engines have graduated the final class the Corps will ever put on. The Harrier will be phased out of use over the next two years, according to a press release announcing the graduation this week of the last class of Marines who fix it up.

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The final class of Marines who will repair and maintain the Harrier's monster F402 jet engine is another casualty of the Marine Corps' Force Design 2030, an aggressive effort to modernize the service that has already seen it get rid of its tanks and the scout sniper military occupational specialty, or MOS.

"Teaching this class is bittersweet. I am proud to pass on knowledge to the last generation of students," Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Fife, an instructor for the course, said Monday in a news release. "On the other side, this is the end of an era for the Marine Corps."

Marines who graduated the course spent two months learning about the Harrier's engine and its gas turbine starter, according to the release. They will be assigned to Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 14, the last unit that works on Harriers located at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.

After the Harrier makes its final flight, Marines who were assigned to maintain it will have the option to move to another MOS of their choice.

"It's mind-boggling to me, knowing that I'm going to the fleet soon and there is nobody else taking this class after me," Pfc. Landyn Powers, a fixed-wing power plants mechanic student, said in the release.

The Harrier jet has been in the Marine Corps' inventory for nearly 40 years. In 2020, the service shut down one of its most famous Harrier squadrons and transitioned to the F-35B stealth fighter.

"With two years left before the AV-8B Harrier II is retired, the Marine Corps has shifted its priorities to prepare for the transition of the F-35 Lightning II, America's premier fifth-generation fighter," according to the press release. "The F-35 Lightning II, designed to operate from ship and shore, provides the Marine Corps with operational flexibility, and unmatched lethality and tactical supremacy."

Related: Marine Corps Marks End of Harrier Operations for Historic 'Tomcats' Squadron

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