The USMC's AV-8B Harrier II Fleet Replacement Detachment at NAF El Centro


Despite the diminishing use of Harriers, the USMC still needs new pilots. For this, El Centro in California provides specific conditions for weapons training, as Joe Copalman discovers

Maj Eric Schiebe, Exec officer of the AV-8B FRD, approaches runway 26 at NAF El Centro with base commanding officer Capt Bill Perkins
 Joe Copalman

As part of the US Marine Corps’ (USMC) ongoing divestment of its AV-8B Harrier II fleet, the service stood down its Harrier Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS), Marine Attack Training Squadron (VMAT) 203 on October 29, 2021 (see Beginning of the End, December 2021, p26-33). Since then, Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 214 has redesignated as an F-35B Lightning II squadron, and VMA-542 will redesignate as an F-35 unit later this year. This will leave only two USMC squadrons operating the Harrier – VMA-223 ‘Bulldogs’ and VMA-231 ‘Ace of Spades,’ both based at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point in North Carolina.

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