III MEF orders temporary pause of AV-8B Harrier fleet

By Lee Hudson / September 23, 2016 at 10:37 AM

The Marine Corps has announced a temporary operational pause for all AV-8B Harrier jets in the III Marine Expeditionary Force following a mishap in the Pacific Ocean east of Okinawa, Japan.

Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, head of the III Marine Expeditionary Force, announced the operational pause.

The mishap involved one AV-8B Harrier and the pilot safely ejected from the jet. The Air Force's 33 Rescue Squadron out of Kadena Air Base with assistance from the Japanese Coast Guard rescued the pilot.

"The pilot was the only individual involved in the mishap and has since been released from the hospital," according to a Marine Corps statement.

During the operational pause, every Harrier will be inspected to ensure it meets operational readiness standards, the statement reads.

"Each aircraft has a highly trained and dedicated maintenance crew," according to the service statement. "These crews conduct pre-flight inspections, pilot inspections, and post-flight inspections in conjunction with each scheduled flight mission."

In August 2014, the Marine Corps began an independent readiness review for the AV-8B Harrier and it wrapped up the following December, Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns wrote in a Sept. 23 statement to Inside the Navy.

"As of 31 July 2016, the AV-8B Harrier average is 9.4 of the set goal of 11, and pilot monthly hours are at 13 of the desired 15.4," she wrote. "Put into percentages; since the HIRR we have seen a 26 percent increase in pilot hours per month, and a 23 percent increase in squadron [ready basic aircraft]."

Last month, Marine Corps aviators were ordered to take a one-day pause after two F/A-18C Hornet crashes and the service's top officer said he is "confident" aviation personnel are focused on readiness and safety.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Inside Defense Sept. 15 after a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that the "real focus" of the aviation stand-down was to have fewer mishaps. "It's hard to bring your A game everyday, but that's what we're asking Marines to do," he added.

Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant for aviation, directed all Marine Aircraft Wing commanders to have their squadrons stop flying one day between Aug. 3 and Aug. 10. The officials could use their discretion, Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns told Inside Defense Aug. 3.

Marine Corps aviators were supposed to use the break in flight operations to reevaluate best practices, she added.

On Aug. 2, an F/A-18C pilot ejected from his Hornet during a training flight near Naval Air Station Fallon, NV. The aircraft is attached to Marine Strike Fighter Squadron-232 at Marine Air Station Miramar, CA. The jet was on temporary assignment to the Strike Fighter Wing Pacific Detachment in Fallon, according to a Marine Corps statement.

A second class 'A' mishap occurred on July 28 when an F/A-18C pilot from VMFA-232 was killed during a training mission near Twentynine Palms, CA.