Military Aviation

VMA-311 deactivates as USMC retires iconic Harrier Jump Jet. Tomcats will reactivate as VMFA-311 operating the F-35C Lightning II.

Similarly, VMA-214 will begin flying the F-35B as VMFA-214.

As shown by the photo in this post, Marine Attack Squadron 311 (VMA-311) conducted a sundown ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, on Oct. 15, 2020.

In spring 2022, VMA-311 will reactivate as Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 311 (VMFA-311) operating the F-35C Lightning II at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Similarly, VMA-214 will begin flying the F-35B as VMFA-214 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.

The VMA-311 Tomcats were initially commissioned in 1942 as a fighter attack squadron in Cherry Point, North Carolina. The Tomcats deployed in support of the WWII island hopping campaign, and flew the first Marine jet combat mission in 1950 during the Korean Conflict. VMA-311 was named Marine Corps Aviator Association’s Attack Squadron of the Year in 1988 and 1991, and became the first Marine squadron to employ the AV-8B Harrier in combat during Operation Desert Shield. VMA-311’s Harriers were the first to fly combat missions in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, and participated in the first combat sortie of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. With a longstanding tradition of aviation firsts, VMA-311 remained an integral force in the nation’s forward presence around the globe.

 “The reputable Tomcats have an exceptional level of esprit de corps representing 78 years of superior performance.” Sgt. Maj. Colin Barry, VMA-311 sergeant major, said in the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAG) news release. “The Tomcats imbued a level of morale within each other that was unmatched, but I have no doubt the newly adopted VMA-214 Black Sheep identity will be embraced, and they will continue performing remarkably.”

While VMA-311 is proud to have employed the Harrier in support of numerous military conflicts, the Marine Corps’ transition to the F-35 marks one of the many advancements that the Marine Corps is taking to maintain air-superiority and ensure mission readiness. Though the F-35B and the AV-8B both offer vertical lift and takeoff capabilities, the F-35 is unmatched in terms of versatility, lethality, and reduced pilot fatigue. The F-35 represents the future of Marine Corps tactical aviation, and will deliver strategic agility, operational flexibility, and tactical supremacy to the Marine Air Ground Task Force.

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-35C Lightning II VFA-125 Rough Raiders, NJ406, 169160 / 2018

Photo credit: Lance Cpl. Julian Elliott-Drouin / U.S. Marine Corps

Gabriele Barison

Gabriele Barison is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Co-Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. He has flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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