BAE Systems to support USMC Harrier II fleet until 2029

BAE Systems revealed on January 12 that Vertex Aerospace has selected it as a subcontractor to support the logistics and maintenance operations of the US Marine Corps’ (USMC’s) AV-8B Harrier II fleet until 2029.

The nine-year agreement between the two firms comes after the US Department of the Navy awarded Vertex Aerospace a US$123m contracted maintenance, modification, aircrew and related services (CMMARS) task order in July 2020. Under which, the company will provide aircraft maintenance and contractor logistics support (CLS) services for the USMC’s ageing McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II vertical/short take-off and landing (V/STOL) fighter fleet.

Having been selected as a subcontractor by Vertex, BAE Systems will employ predictive techniques and smart stock optimisation tools to increase the efficiency of the Harrier fleet’s maintenance operations. The two firms will also support training and combat operations that take place from the US Navy’s aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships and forward operating bases.

AV-8B(R)+ [US Navy/Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Knight]
A McDonnell Douglas AV-8B(R)+ Harrier II, BuNo 165354, lands aboard the amphibious assault ship, USS Peleliu (LHA-5), after completing a sortie over the East China Sea on September 3, 2014. This aircraft was written-off in a crash off the island of Okinawa in September 2016. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Knight

BAE Systems states that this latest contract builds on the company’s “existing role in maintaining the AV-8B Harrier’s reaction control system and providing engineering and technical support” services. It adds that “they will be supported by a specialist team in the UK with a proven pedigree of delivering maintenance and support contracts for the Royal Air Force.” Under this deal, engineers from BAE Systems will work alongside Vertex and the USMC at Marine Corps Air Stations (MCAS’) in Cherry Point, North Carolina; Yuma, Arizona; and, Madison, Mississippi.

Tom Fillingham, senior vice president of US Programs at BAE Systems Air, said: “The Harrier is one of the most iconic military aircraft ever created, with its British designed short take-off and vertical landing technology. Our expertise with the aircraft goes back 40 years and this new contract with Vertex Aerospace ensures we can continue to apply our expertise to support the [USMC] in their crucial operations.”

This new agreement is not the first time that BAE Systems has teamed up with Vertex to support the US military. The two firms have previously worked together under the US Navy’s Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) contract and on spare wing production for the T-45 Goshawk programme.

AV-8B [US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Oscar N. Espinoza]
A USMC-operated AV-8B Harrier II conducts a vertical take-off from the deck of the amphibious assault ship, USS Boxer (LHD-4), to conduct a training sortie off the coast of southern California in March 2013. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Oscar N. Espinoza

John ‘Ed’ Boyington, president and CEO of Vertex Aerospace, added: “Extending our partnership with BAE Systems to support of [USMC’s] important AV-8B pilot training mission just made sense. With a combined 100 plus years of aerospace and defence experience, we understand the challenges warfighters face and remain keenly committed to improving aircraft readiness while maximising efficiencies.”

The Harrier II has served operationally with the USMC since 1982. AirForces Intelligence data states that, as of January 14, 2021, the service operates a total of 98 single-seat Harrier IIs, comprising 26 AV-8Bs, as well as 53 examples of the AV-8B(R)+ and 19 of the AV-8B+ variant. The USMC also operates 16 two-seat training aircraft, which includes 15 TAV-8B Harrier IIs and a single TAV-8B+ aircraft.