US VMA 231 AV 8B CG 07 credit Mason Ellis Photography 640Final public performance USMC AV-8B

Last weekend, on 11 and 12 May 2024, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point (NC) opened to the public under perfect weather conditions. Spectators witnessed the final public display of the AV-8B Harrier II by Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 231 Ace of Spades ('CG-xx').

Consolidated with several East Coast squadrons in 2022, VMA-231 is the last frontline unit flying the AV-8B II-plus, the most modern version of the AV-8A originally built by Hawker-Siddeley in the United Kingdom and introduced in 1969. The AV-8B, built by McDonnell Douglas, now Boeing, first flew in 1981 and entered service four years later.

The Harrier squadron completed its last deployment in March 2024 with the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which operated in the Middle East and Mediterranean Sea for more than eight months.

According to the Marine Corps Aviation Plan, VMA-231 will transition to the F-35B Lightning II beginning next year and achieve safe flight status with six STOVL jets by the third quarter of Fiscal Year 2026. The plan calls for a total of 16 F-35Bs within 24 months of reaching initial operational capability.

US VMA 223 WP 223 credit Mason Ellis Photography 320The Harrier training unit, Marine Attack Training Squadron (VMAT) 203 Hawks ('KD-xx'), was decommissioned on 29 October 2021. The unit transitioned to a Fleet Replacement Detachment assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 223 Bulldogs ('WP-xx'), also based at MCAS Cherry Point, and will continue training USMC pilots until the Harrier is fully decommissioned.

Credit photos: Mason Ellis Photography

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