The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) has announced a major milestone in the Fleet Readiness Center East’s (FRCE) AV-8B Harrier maintenance programme.

The facility successfully completed and returned the final refurbished AV-8B Harrier aircraft to Marine Attack Squadron 542 (VMA-542) at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point.

The aircraft has been in planned maintenance interval (PMI) inspection and integrated maintenance programme assembly at FRCE since December last year, according to NAVAIR.

Since the PMI’s inception in 2003, Fleet Readiness Center East has performed a total of 45 of the events for the VMA-542 squadron.

The VMA-542 is expected to become MCAS’ first F-35 squadron, post which depot maintenance will be ceased for AV-8B Harriers.

FRCE Fixed Wing Division director Ike Rettenmair said: “You’ve got a lot of blood, sweat and tears invested in the airplane, but you also understand that it’s time to move on.

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“There’s better technology out there with the F-35. It’s time, but it’s still kind of sad to see.”

The AV-8B is a vertical/short take-off and landing (V/STOL) fighter and attack aircraft.

FRCE AV-8 planner and estimator Jeff Broughton said: “Everyone knew we had to meet the turnaround time for the fleet, trying to make the boat, and it gave the team a ‘we can do this’ mentality.

“The whole team chipped in their full support to meet the squadron’s needs.”

In September 2019, the FRCE completed planned fly-in maintenance on the last USMC AV-8B Harrier aircraft and delivered the completely assembled Harrier jet to Marine Attack Training Squadron 203.