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Last 2 Harrier Pilots Enter USMC Pipeline

End of an Era Looms for a Legendary VTOL Pioneer

The Harrier's time is coming to a close in US Marine Corps service, as the last 2 pilots in the type enter the training pipeline.

The AV-8B Harrier will be replaced by the totally functional, showtime-ready (but still somehow in LRIP after 10 years) F-35 Lightning II and the steadfast F/A-18C/D Hornet. The transition will (theoretically) be completed by 2030, meaning the USMC can coast on its stocks of Harrier pilots for the next 7 years without much concern. One day, the units will have to make the leap to the next-gen F-35B once the VTOL - or more accurately, STOL aircraft is ready for frontline action. The new Harrier pilots will be training until 2027, giving them a scant few years with their legacy airframe. Similar happenings are afoot for the fixed-wing Hornet, with the USMC winding up training units in preparation to swap to the F-35 platform.

Replacing the Harrier while still sporting a 7g-capable, supersonic stealth fighter design is a tall order, but the F-35 just might be able to do it, once all the little issues are taken care of. The more mature, simple F-35C has proven to be a fave for the Navy and Marines, thanks to its larger carrier-ready wing layout and lighter, VTOL-free design.



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