The Harrier: The Fighter Jet the Marines Want in a War

    Edward Chang

    Security, North America

    And just can’t seem to get rid of. 

    Since the intervention by the United States and coalition partners began in 2014, the Middle East’s skies have become crowded with the very best in modern air power. The air is full of flashy fourth-generation fighters (like the Air Force’s F-15s and F-16s and the Navy’s F/A-18E/Fs), and newer fifth-generation fighters (like the F-22). But also flying proudly with these other planes is a Marine Corps mainstay generally not considered a fourth-generation platform and unlikely to win any beauty contests—the McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II. That plane has, time and again, proven itself a highly effective multirole combat aircraft.

    The Harrier II is unique among American military aircraft as one of few to have been adapted from a foreign design. The AV-8B’s origin traces back to the British Hawker Siddeley Harrier, which was designed in the 1960s. Though not the first vertical/short take-off and landing (V/STOL) aircraft built, it was the first fully operational and successful example. V/STOL capability was revolutionary because it created an aircraft that could operate from short or less-than-ideal runways, or from no runway at all.

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