The mission of the VMA STOVL squadron is to attack and destroy surface and air targets, to escort helicopters, and to conduct other such air operations as may be directed. Specific tasks of the AV-8B Harrier II include:
Conduct close air support using conventional and specific weapons.
Conduct deep air support, to include armed reconnaissance and air interdiction, using conventional and specific weapons.
Conduct offensive and defensive antiair warfare. This includes combat air patrol, armed escort missions, and offensive missions against enemy ground-to-air defenses, all within the capabilities of the aircraft.
Be able to operate and deliver ordnance at night and to operate under instrument flight conditions.
Be able to deploy for extended operations employing aerial refueling.
Be able to deploy to and operate from carriers and other suitable seagoing platforms, advanced bases, expeditionary airfields, and remote tactical landing sites.
Operation Desert Storm in 1991 was highlighted by expeditionary air operations performed by the AV-8B. The Harrier II was the first Marine Corps tactical strike platform to arrive in theater, and subsequently operated from various basing postures. Three squadrons, totaling 60 aircraft, and one six-aircraft detachment operated ashore from an expeditionary airfield, while one squadron of 20 aircraft operated from a sea platform. During the ground war, AV-8Bs were based as close as 35 nautical miles (40.22 miles) from the Kuwait border, making them the most forward deployed tactical strike aircraft in theater. The AV-8B flew 3,380 sorties for a total of 4,083 flight hours while maintaining a mission capable rate in excess of 90 percent. Average turnaround time during the ground war surge rate flight operations was 23 minutes.
-Wingspan: 30 ft. 4 in. (9.25 m)
-Lenght: 46 ft. 4 in. (14.12 m) -Height: 11 ft. 8 in. (3.55 m)
-Weight: 6,336 kg
-Range: 900 nautical miles
-Power plant: TAV-8B/AV-8B Day Attack (DA): One Rolls Royce Pegasus F402-RR-406 turbofan engine with approximately 20,280 pounds of thrust AV-8B Night Attack (NA)/AV-8B Radar: One Rolls Royce Pegasus F402-RR-408A turbofan engine with approximately 22,200 pounds of thrust -Maximum speed: 550 KCAS
-Range: greater than 142 nautical miles high speed/low altitude combat radius
-Arnament: One fuselage-mounted 25 mm gun system, Standard Air-to-Ground (A/G) load: Six Mk 82, 500 pound bombs, Standard Air-to-Air (A/A) load: Four AIM-9L/M Sidewinder missiles, Provisions for carrying up to 9,000 pounds of ordnance on seven stations
Photo courtesy: Yuma Air Show