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Camp Bastion attack could be U.S. Marine Corps Harrier fleetís ground zero
Aviationist ^ | September 22, 2012

Posted on 09/23/2012 9:27:40 AM PDT by robowombat

Camp Bastion attack could be U.S. Marine Corps Harrier fleet’s ground zero September 22, 2012

As already explained, the recent Taliban attack on Camp Bastion, that cost the U.S. the worst air loss to enemy fire in one day since the Vietnam War, almost wiped out the entire U.S. Marine Harrier force in Afghanistan: besides killing two Marines, including the Commanding Officer of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 211, six AV-8B+ aircraft were destroyed and two more severly injured.

Since the VMA-211 “Avengers” had deployed to Afghanistan with 10 airframes, only two Harriers survived the insurgent attack in one of the strategical airbases in Afghanistan (aircraft that were immediately returned to the U.S.).

In other words, in a matter of a hours, the U.S., that had moved VMA-211 from Kandahar to Camp Bastion on Jul.1 to have the planes closer to where the troops need support, not only lost one of its most valuable CAS (Close Air Support) platforms in Afghanistan, but also about 1/15th of the entire American Jump Jet fleet.

Even though you may believe that the loss of 8 Harriers is not a big deal when you have a fleet of 120+ such planes, you have to consider that about 15 planes are TAV-8B two seater jump jets used for training purposes, along with about the same amount of single seaters.

Moreover, of the remaining Harriers (about 100), not all airframes can be used in combat with the same effectiveness, because the U.S. Marine Corps, along with the upgraded AV-8B+ (like those destroyed at Camp Bastion), that features the APG-65 Radar and the Litening pod, flies also the less capable AV-8B.

Hence the extent of losses suffered in Afghanistan is higher than the 7 percent and could be a big deal for the U.S. Marine Corps that has to carefully ration the employment of the Harriers if it wants to keep the AV-8B+ in service beyond 2030, when it will eventually be replaced by the F-35B.

Well before the Camp Bastion attack, to increase the availability of spare parts and extend the life of the Harrier, the Marines procured second hand RAF Harrier GR9s.

The second generation AV-8B Harrier, developed in the first ’80s, was well suited for U.S. Marine Corps requirement for a Close Air Support aircraft able to give effective tactical support to amphibious landing operations. Over the years, it was also upgraded to carry AMRAAM missiles, JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions), and today the plane (operating also with both the Spanish and Italian Navy) is able to undertake CAS missions, naval Theater Air Defense and precision Air-to-Ground tasks.

That’s why the Harrier is so important for the U.S. Marine Corps.

Beyond the AV-8B+

The USMC and the Italian Navy plan to replace their Harriers with the F-35B, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) version of the JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) conceived for Jump Jet users: U.S. Marines, IT Navy and Royal Navy / Royal Air Force (the first “international” F-35 is the F-35B BK-01 / ZM135, that made its maiden flight in April 2012). Althought it’s not among the AV-8B+ operators, the Italian Air Force is expected to operate 15 F-35Bs along with 60 F-35As.

The STOVL aircraft will be a swing role platform suited to be effective in a net-centric environment, where it will perform both sensor and shooter roles. But it will not be fully operational before the late 2020s, and the USMC is planning to upgrade its Harriers in order to keep them in service until a significant amout of F-35Bs will be operational.

Not only the USMC will have to upgrade the jump jets.

Probably, both Spanish and Italian Navy will have no choice but to upgrade their Harriers, which could be really effective with SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs) and new avionics, considering that the Air Superiority within a naval group area of operations is provided by the combination of both airborne and ship-based capabilities.

Nevertheless, since it doesn’t partecipate to the JSF program, Spain will probably lose its embarked fixed wing component if it doesn’t acquire the F-35B.

Related Articles Commanding Officer of the Harrier squadron decimated at Camp Bastion among the Marines killed in the Taliban attack (theaviationist.com)

Marine Attack Squadron loses eight Harrier jets in worst U.S. air loss in one day since the Vietnam War (theaviationist.com)

Reaper drone and Apache helicopter involved in the Camp Bastion battle that wiped out the U.S. Marine Corps Harrier force in Afghanistan (theaviationist.com)

Seeing the target through a Scout Sniper’s observation telescope (theaviationist.com)

Camouflage color schemes: how many Marines can you count in this photo? (theaviationist.com)

U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18C crashes at NAS Fallon, Nevada. The last of a series of Hornet incidents (theaviationist.com)

U.S. amphibious assault ship to be moved into position to support Noncombatant Evacuation Operation in Libya? (theaviationist.com)


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: afghanwar; av8b; campbastion; harrier; marineaviation; talibanattack; usmc
Operational details that paint a depressing picture. The referenced articles are also well worth reading. A friend who is a retired Army 0-6 and was Aviation branch commented on the lack of emphasis on force protection and the general empasis on not doing anything to upset the Afghan's sensibilities with the following: "Our flag officers have become so politicized that their value is suspect."

Who else who has or is now wearing the unifrom believes the same?

1 posted on 09/23/2012 9:27:48 AM PDT by robowombat
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To: robowombat

The Islamist In Chief is veryy happy.


2 posted on 09/23/2012 9:35:45 AM PDT by onedoug
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To: robowombat

If this was 2007 you know who the MSM would blame!


3 posted on 09/23/2012 9:37:42 AM PDT by Bringbackthedraft (Who we elect is not as important as who they bring in with them.)
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To: robowombat

I wasn’t an officer nor in aviation but Dempsey’s call to a civilian was extraordinarily inappropriate if true.


4 posted on 09/23/2012 9:39:52 AM PDT by meatloaf (Support Senate S 1863 & House Bill 1380 to eliminate oil slavery.)
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To: robowombat

It certainly appears that many flag level officers are mostly concerned about protecting their careers, and their post-career opportunities. There’s too much emphasis on political correctness, tedious bureaucratic processes and of course endless briefings.


5 posted on 09/23/2012 9:40:01 AM PDT by Starboard
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To: Bringbackthedraft

If this was 2007 you know who the MSM would blame!
*********
Has the MSM (Mendacious State Media) even written about this disaster or are they burrying the story and running their cover for the Imposter-in-Chief?


6 posted on 09/23/2012 9:42:23 AM PDT by Starboard
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To: robowombat

“Operational details that paint a depressing picture.”

That, and we aren’t building Harriers anymore, IIRC.


7 posted on 09/23/2012 9:58:54 AM PDT by castlebrew (Gun Control means hitting where you're aiming!))
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To: robowombat

If the loss of 8 aircraft of any classification is damaging to force projection capability we had better not ever go to real war.

In this war there have been no fixed wing aircraft losses to hostile fire that I am aware of and virtually no losses to hostile fire from enemy combatant aircraft.

Flag officers are nothing but political tools. Many of the flag officer positions are filled by nothing much more than obama political operatives.


8 posted on 09/23/2012 10:01:25 AM PDT by Sequoyah101 (Half the people are below average, they voted for oblabla.s)
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To: robowombat

From Michael Yon -

“The Afghan military is loaded with turncoats, moles, infiltrators, and drug-addled lunatics. They prove this practically weekly. Last year, a long-time Afghan Air Force Colonel, a helicopter pilot, went berserk and killed nine Americans.

The Afghan Air Force might as well be the National Reconnaissance Office for the Taliban. One crewmember with a camera can get all of the latest imagery from many bases in his area. But aside from that, what if another rogue Afghan pilot decides to go lethal? We have been training their M-17 helicopter pilots to fire rockets.”


9 posted on 09/23/2012 10:03:14 AM PDT by nuconvert ( Khomeini promised change too // Hail, Chairman O)
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To: meatloaf

“...but Dempsey’s call to a civilian was extraordinarily inappropriate if true.”

The understatement of the year!

It was a blatant violation of his oath to the Constitution, if (as if!) he did this on his own. And he compounded it by not resigning in refusal to do this when ordered/directed.

Dempsey can call me if he wants to discuss it. I’d just love to hear his side of the story.


10 posted on 09/23/2012 10:03:29 AM PDT by castlebrew (Gun Control means hitting where you're aiming!))
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To: castlebrew

I’d give him a piece of my mind too if I had any to spare.


11 posted on 09/23/2012 10:14:19 AM PDT by meatloaf (Support Senate S 1863 & House Bill 1380 to eliminate oil slavery.)
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To: nuconvert

what if another rogue Afghan pilot decides to go lethal? We have been training their M-17 helicopter pilots to fire rockets.” .................................... Its Vietnam all over again, like trying to tell the difference between the VC and the good guys. Its going to eventually end the same way, Karzi, will probably end up as a millionaire living in Paris with Madam Nhu.


12 posted on 09/23/2012 11:09:59 AM PDT by Bringbackthedraft (Who we elect is not as important as who they bring in with them.)
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To: robowombat

Every admiral or general from the past 15 years (including retired and guard and reserve) should be formed into the star brigade and sent to Afghanistan as light Infantry.


13 posted on 09/23/2012 11:16:39 AM PDT by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: robowombat

That’s a lot of national treasure blown up there. Panetta needs to be fired. They need to flush this whole incompetent administration.


14 posted on 09/23/2012 11:20:31 AM PDT by blueunicorn6 ("A crack shot and a good dancer")
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To: robowombat

I’ve seen other articles by this guy, and am at the moment decidedly unimpressed.

He’d actually make good points, if it weren’t for the fact - the SIGNIFICANT fact - that a few months back the USMC acquired the ENTIRE (well, two were kept for museums) RAF Harrier GR.9/9A fleet.

That’s somewhere around 70 additional aircraft. Plus their engines. Plus their spares. The RAF Harrier GR.9/9As ARE AV-8B airframes with somewhat different ECM fits.

The RAF Harriers were acquired to provide spares and attrition airframes for the USMC fleet. They are in surprisingly good shape, according to the Marines, and the plan was expanded from attrition reserve/spares to using some to replace worn out F/A-18Ds.

Loss of 8 aircraft is always bad news. But given that there are 70+ others in storage and available to chose 1 for 1 replacements from, the situation is negligible from the kind of dire straits/world is ending histrionics he seems to be engaged in regarding numbers (IMHO the major story/loss here is the deaths of the Marines, including the CO).

From what I can tell, he doesn’t mention any of that in the article. Which undermines his credibility: either he’s ignorant of something that’s been reported all over the military aviation press for the last several months, or he’s willfully and duplicitously holding it back to make his argument seem stronger.


15 posted on 09/23/2012 11:22:10 AM PDT by tanknetter
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To: castlebrew
That, and we aren’t building Harriers anymore, IIRC.

There are entirely too many things we don't have very many of, aren't building any more, and can't afford to lose.

And that, friends and neighbours, is entirely due to the decades long habit on the left of cutting the dreaded "Pentagon Budget" as the first, last, and only response to reducing government spending.

Damn the filthy, pacifist, anti-American demonicRats.

16 posted on 09/23/2012 11:37:27 AM PDT by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
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To: tanknetter
Whether the loss of a given number of aircraft is operationally significant the point of real significance made here is that this is a major humiliation for the US and GB. Enemy forces entered the second strongest base in Afghanistan, destroyed a large number of aircraft and killed a high ranking US officer in the process . This story , wildly embellished as is the nature of the East, has been told throughout Afghanistan and across Pakistan and Arab Islamic countries. In terms of psychological warfare this is a major defeat for our side and along with the 9-11 12 convulsions presents the US as weak and a paper tiger. This is the story the government and their willing helpers in the press are burying and why Yon should be praised for putting the sorry tale front and center.
17 posted on 09/23/2012 4:41:17 PM PDT by robowombat
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To: tanknetter
But given that there are 70+ others in storage and available to chose 1 for 1 replacements from,

Incorrect on several points. Not all of the GR9s were sent to Davis Monthan and the GR9s were not equipped with the APG-65.

Many of those airframes have already been pickled as you were previously told.

18 posted on 09/23/2012 4:51:52 PM PDT by A.A. Cunningham (Barry Soetoro is a Kenyan communist)
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To: A.A. Cunningham
Incorrect on several points. Not all of the GR9s were sent to Davis Monthan and the GR9s were not equipped with the APG-65.

IIRC Marine Squadrons are allocated -8B/NAs and -8B+s (with the APG-65) on a 50/50 basis. So with 10 aircraft deployed there were at most five -8B+s. Even if all five were among the destroyed (I don't think we know yet, do we?) that's an absorb-able loss that can be addressed by pulling a single -8B+ from each of the other USMC Harrier squadrons and VMFA-203. The loss of capability shouldn't be too severe.

Many of those airframes have already been pickled as you were previously told.

"Pickled" aircraft get restored to active service from AMARG all the time. Even after years (that last Iranian Tomcat, the Pakistani F-16s, the F-16s being pulled for conversion to QFs) and even decades (the S-2/C-1s that are being pulled for Brasil for COD/AEW use). What I see in those pictures are aircraft disassembled for transport with their engines pulled for preservation and storage. Yes, they look like forlorn and empty shells, but recall that the only way to yank a Pegasus from a Harrier to actually take the whole wing off. I don't see anything in any of the pictures you posted that would preclude those aircraft from being returned to service via standard AMARG processes.

The biggest impediment to them going into active USMC service is going to be politics. The Brit Government is FURIOUS that the USMC was talking about actually flying some of them again. It'll be a huge embarrassment for the Brits; getting rid of them was a controversial decision highlighted (in a very negative way) by the (missing) contribution a Harrier-equipped Ark Royal could have made during the Libya campaign.
19 posted on 09/23/2012 5:53:05 PM PDT by tanknetter
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To: robowombat
Reports of the demise of VMA-211s presence at Bastion are greatly exaggerated.

Air superiority – Harriers continue operations over Helmand

Story by Cpl. Timothy Lenzo

CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan – Two AV-8B Harrier II Plus aircraft appear to dot the gray sky, as ground crewmembers prepare for their arrival. The aircraft are more than 46 feet long and have a wingspan of 30 feet 4 inches. They roar through the Afghanistan sky, a symbol of our air superiority.

After a recent insurgent attack at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, Marine Attack Squadron 211 endured not only the loss of some of their squadron’s aircraft, but also the tragic loss of their commanding officer, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible. Despite this tragedy, the squadron is pushing forward to complete their deployment in Helmand province.

The Harrier squadron remains fully operational and continues to provide support to ground troops throughout Regional Command Southwest’s area of operations.

“We are used for close-air support for the infantry battalions,” said Capt. Matthew Pasquali, a pilot with Marine Attack Squadron 211, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward). “We are providing patrol overwatch, scanning for known improvised explosive device implementing spots and looking ahead of patrols for typical ambush positions.”

This is Pasquali’s fifth deployment and third to Afghanistan. The squadron deployed in May 2012 and has stayed busy throughout their approximate five months in Afghanistan.

“I think we’ve been employed in support of ground operations more than 50 times thus far,” said Pasquali, from Houston, Texas.

With a max speed of 673 mph, the Harrier provides fast air support to coalition forces throughout the area. Armed with a 25 mm five-barreled Gatling gun, the aircraft can do much more than provide reconnaissance.

“If it comes to it, we provide close-air support with 500 pound bombs or 25 mm gun runs,” said Pasquali.

The squadron provides ground units with a precision targeting capability for close-air support, which makes the Harrier squadron a vital piece of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force.

“The insurgents have no air force,” said Pasquali. “They can attack our friendlies with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire, but we can answer back from altitudes that they can’t attack us.”

Harriers allow a commander the flexibility to operate from ship or shore; providing the ability to conduct fire support, close-air support, aerial reconnaissance or be an aerial escort for other aircraft or troops on the ground.

“Without the Harriers, the Marine Corps would rely on outside sources for fixed wing attack aviation,” said Capt. Tim Otten, a pilot and command adjutant with VMA-211.

Otten said the Harriers are piloted and manned by Marines, which creates a level of familiarity between the air and ground units. This makes operating easier and more efficient.

“We have a better understanding of what is happening on the ground because those are our brothers that we went through boot camp or officer candidate school with,” said Otten, from Norfolk, Va.

The squadron continues to support the ground units with the Harriers when needed. They understand the importance of their mission here in Afghanistan.

“Every Marine knows another Marine that is out on the ground,” said Otten. “This job gives me the unique ability to help Marines. That’s the best part, trying to provide the best support I can.”

While the past several days have been difficult for the VMA-211 Marines, the squadron has overcome adversity in the past. During World War II, the squadron was attacked by Japanese forces destroying seven of the squadron’s twelve aircraft. Despite the losses, the two weeks following the attack VMA-211 continued to take the fight to the enemy. While fighting the Japanese, the squadron fought off several enemy attacks and destroyed four naval warships.

Just as VMA-211 did during World War II, they will push through. The Marines know they have a job to do and intend to complete their mission and continue to provide the close-air support for Marines on the ground.

AV-8B Harriers line Camp Bastion’s airfield, Sept. 26. Despite a recent insurgent attack, which destroyed six aircraft, the squadron’s Marines know they have a job to do and intend to complete their mission and provide close-air support for Marines on the ground.

20 posted on 09/26/2012 1:23:04 PM PDT by A.A. Cunningham (Barry Soetoro is a Kenyan communist)
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