As the US Marine Corps (USMC) transitions to fly the F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point is marking the end of a nearly 40-year era as the AV-8 Harrier nears full decommissioning.
According to ABC 15 News, on Oct. 29, 2021 at 10 a.m. Marine Attack Training Squadron 203 (VMAT-203) “Hawks” will hold a sundown ceremony at the unit hangar at MCAS Cherry Point.
The ceremony, that marks the end of the squadron’s Marine Corps service, will be open to the public.
VMAT-203 was established in 1972 and in 1983 was tasked with the mission of training Marine Corps AV-8 Harrier pilots.
The squadron trained aviators and maintenance personnel and operated a mix of AV-8Bs and two-seat TAV-8Bs. The role of training all Marine Corps Harrier pilots was entrusted to the “Hawks” of VMAT-203.
Before receiving the Harrier jump jet, the squadron flew the venerable A-4 Skyhawk. The arrival of V/STOL aviation instituted another era for VMAT-203. The squadron’s A-4 Skyhawks were retired and VMAT-203 became the AV-8A/C training squadron as part of Marine Aircraft Group 32. In December 1983, the first AV-8B Harrier II was delivered, and until March 1985, VMAT-203 was assigned the dual missions of training both AV-8A/C pilot and AV-8B replacement aircrews. Having trained its last AV-8A/C pilot in March 1985, VMAT-203’s exclusive mission then became the training of AV-8B aircrews and maintenance personnel.
Over the past three years, VMAT-203 has trained 53 Harrier pilots, flown more than 12,000 flight hours, and participated in eight instructor and student training deployments.
VMAT-203 will transition to a Fleet Replacement Detachment assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 223 and will continue training Marines until the Harrier is fully decommissioned.
Photo credit: Lance Cpl. Scott L. Tomaszycki / US Marine Corps
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