On 29 October 2021, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point (NC) is marking the end of a nearly 40-year era as the Harrier nears full decommissioning and the Corps transitions to fly the F-35B Lightning II. Marine Attack Training Squadron (VMAT) 203 Hawks ('KD-xx') will hold a sundown ceremony on this date at 10:00 hrs LT at their hangar.
The unit and its predecessors date back to 1947 with VMT-1 operating as an independent squadron. The unit was equipped with the TF-9J Cougar and the T-33 Shooting Star, and conducted training in swept-wing refresher/transition, instrument procedures, and instrument ground school. On 2 July 1967, VMT-1 received its first A-4 Skyhawk. The last F-9 was transferred in December of that year. In May 1972, the squadron was re-designated VMAT-203 and flew a mix of A-4M and TA-4J Skyhawks before receiving the AV-8A/C Harrier.
In December 1983, the first AV-8B Harrier II was delivered, and until March 1985, VMAT-203 was assigned the dual missions of training both AV-8A/C pilot and AV-8B replacement aircrews. Having trained its last AV-8A/C pilot in March 1985, VMAT-203's exclusive mission then became the training of AV-8B aircrews and maintenance personnel. Over the past three years, VMAT-203 has trained 53 Harrier pilots, flown more than 12,000 flight hours, and participated in eight instructor and student training deployments.
VMAT-203 will transition 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.
According to the Scramble Magazine USMC database the Hawks had the following AV-8B/TAV-8Bs in their inventory:
AV-8B: 163867/KD-20, 164130/KD-22, 164146/KD-32, 164140/KD-34 and 163199/KD-40
AV-8B+: 164546/KD-25 and 165001/KD-41
AV-8B+(R): 165569/KD-44, 165566/KD-45 and 165311/KD-46
TAV-8B: 164114/KD-00, 164113/KD-01, 163186/KD-04, 163196/KD-06, 163857/KD-09, 163859/KD-11, 163191/KD-12, 164122/KD-14 and 164138/KD-15
Photo by Martin Uleman (Scramble Archive)