The Harrier and Expeditionary Basing


08/25/2011 During a recent exercise of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, the USMC honed their skills at landing Harriers on AM-2 matting, loading the aircraft with the pilot in the cockpit and ready to go after loading the aircraft with both weapons and fuel.  After getting “a bag of fuel” and weapons, the Harrier takes off and re-engages.

This core competence of the USMC combines what a V/STOL aircraft can do with innovative combat operational approaches.

Earlier on our website, General Walsh explained the overall approach in an interview entitled “The Harrier and Flexible Basing.”

General Walsh explained that the ability to operate close to the battlefield, always the Harrier to provide considerably greater sortie rates in support of the ground forces.

The presence capability we’re having increases time on station to be able to observe them, pounce, provide presence: whatever the effect is you’re looking for, the STOVL being closely based not only gives you the responsive time, but it also gives you that increased time on station by being closer to the battlefield, as opposed to an aircraft which has been traveling a long distance away, may only have 20 minutes to be on station to drop ordnance, and then, has to leave and get back to the base because it is out of fuel. By being closer there, you have more time on-station, and by being more on-station, you’re able to loiter longer and have more of a patience profile : you are then more in a position to wait there for precise targeting, as opposed to be in a hurry to get out of there.

However, time on station in this presence concept rules, because what we are doing today isn’t a deliberate attack and isn’t driving forward on conventional operations. Many times, it is just waiting for the ground forces to say that they need an effect. It may also be the enemy reacting to what we’re doing that drives that reaction. So it’s not always that we’re developing a plan 72 hours out on when to attack targets, in which one launches into a window and has 10 minutes to drop ordinance and get out of there. We may actually not drop any ordnance. But it’s that presence piece – that loiter time – that is critical. You can loiter much longer over the area you need to loiter over, if you’re parked right next to it.

During the exercise Lt. Col. Williams discussed the exercise of this core competence and its use in operations.

Lt. Col Williams is the Commanding Officer of VMA-231.  Marine Attack Squadron 231 (VMA-231) is a United States Marine Corps fixed wing attack squadron that consists of AV-8B Harrier (V/STOL) jets and 1 TAV-8B trainer jet. The squadron, known as the “Ace of Spades”, is based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina and fall under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 14 (MAG-14) and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (2nd MAW).

In the first part of the interview, Lt. Col. Williams focused on the exercise and the basic approach.  The first part of the interview can be seen in the video below.

In the second part of the interview, the Commanding Officer explained how the exercise reflected real world operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The second part of the video can be seen in the video below.

For a related interview with USMC officers who craft the expeditionary airfields in operational settings please go to