The US Marine Corps (USMC) has flown the first BRU-70/A digital improved triple ejector rack (Diter)-equipped AV-8B Harrier aircraft in support of the US-led coalition campaign against the Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria.

Deliveries of the DITER production units were originally scheduled for June this year, but were fast-tracked after USMC requested for the systems to maximise current mission capability in December 2014.

During the January mission, the aircraft deployed four laser joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs) from two DITERs, which equates to the 50% of the munitions used during the insurgent airstrike.

US Marine Corps Aviation deputy commandant lieutenant general Jon Davis said: "The addition of the Digital ITER to our AV-8s in-theatre really up-guns the capability of that jet, allowing it to carry a lot more precision ordnance.

"This wouldn’t have been possible without the NAVAIR team’s steadfast support."

"The aircraft deployed four laser joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs) from two DITERs."

Around four DITER flight-test units were delivered to address the Marines’ operational requirement, by the US Naval Air Systems Command’s Precision Strike Weapons Program Office and AV-8B Weapon Systems Program Office class desk within one month of request.

The units were previously used in the test and evaluation of the rack prior to production contract award to Exelis, and further evaluation was performed to ensure fleet operational readiness.

Awarded in January, the $13m contract requires Exelis to supply 181 BRU-70/A units to upgrade the AV-8B’s existing carriage and release system, the BRU-42.

The DITER is expected to provide Harriers with a smart weapon triple-carriage and employment capability, while retaining the legacy stores interface, prolonging and expanding the aircraft’s mission.

With the new rack, the Harrier will carry six munitions depending on the mission requirement and armament configuration, which in turn increases mission effectiveness. Its current capacity is for two JDAMs.

Image: The first USMC BRU-70/A DITER-equipped AV-8B Harrier aircraft flew against the Islamic State militants in January. Photo: courtesy of Naval Air Systems Command.