The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) is paying $180 million to buy 72 BAE Harrier GR.9 V/STOL fighters that were axed from the Royal Air Force in last year’s British defense review. The airframes, engines and other parts will be used as a spares source for the USMC’s fleet of AV-8B Harriers, which are now scheduled to continue in service until 2026, four years later than previously planned.
The UK Ministry of Defence said that the sale brought total savings from retiring the Harrier fleet to about $1.5 billion. The British Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) also withdrew the Royal Navy’s two “Harrier-carriers,” thus leaving the UK without a “carrier strike” capability until 2020, when one of two larger carriers now under construction will be equipped with F-35Cs.
British junior defense minister Peter Luff said, “Harrier served this country with great distinction, but retiring it eight years earlier than planned was the right decision. Had we taken the decision in the SDSR to decommission Tornado instead, we would not have been able to carry out the missions that were required simultaneously in Libya and Afghanistan. It was essential to retire older, less capable aircraft to allow us to invest in more modern, cutting-edge fast jets.”