The US Navy Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) has completed planned fly-in maintenance on the last US Marine Corps (USMC) AV-8B Harrier vertical/short take-off and landing (V/STOL) aircraft.

FRCE delivered the completely assembled Harrier jet to Marine Attack Training Squadron 203.

The Harrier was the 121st AV-8B aircraft to have undergone Planned Maintenance Interval 1 (PMI-1) at the depot.

FRCE will undertake PMI-D service on the V/STOL aircraft. The PMI-D will see the depot induct an already disassembled aircraft and deliver it the same way.

The USMC will phase out the AV-8 aircraft by 2025 and extend the service life of the F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters.

FRCE AV-8 and In-Service Repair branch head Ike Rettenmair said: “We won’t have any PMI-1 aircraft, but we’ll still get special rework AV-8s, crash-damaged AV-8s for example, or we’ll send our artisans out for squadron work via in-service repair.

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“We’ll see opportunities like that come up on occasion, and we’ll be the support facility for those instances, in addition to the PMI-D work.”

The depot is currently the sole provider of PMI-1 service to the aircraft and will deliver the final AV-8B PMI-1 jet to the Italian Navy next month.

FRCE AV-8 Harrier programme aircraft task manager Bob Henke said: “The shift is based on the eventual drawdown on the AV-8 platform, and the transition to the F-35. The AV-8 is still a valuable asset, but this is how the cycle works, retire an existing platform and start a new one.”

The FRCE and FRC Southwest (FRCSW) will be designated as PMI-D hubs. FRCSW will end providing services to the aircraft in 2021, while FRCE will operate as the sole depot-level service provider and continue to provide PMI-D until 2026.

The transition to PMI-D reduces the total workload on the depot.