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Marine Jets: The Good, Bad, and Ugly.


After watching Terminator Salvation, I am convinced of the Marine Corps need to steal the A-10 to replace the Harrier.


Registered User
Jboomer, thanks for your post... I don't post often here but I appreciate you spelling it out for us - as students at Meridian, all we here is "hornet this, hornet that..." but some of us Marines are on the fence. I feel much more informed.


New Member
I honestly think the Harrier is probably cooler...more fun to fly...

Care to expand on this?

I should be selecting in a month or so. I was all about the hornet throughout training until going out to the weps det. Dropping blue death and onav-ing through the mtns. was a blast.


Well-Known Member
It's not, I just said that to keep the Harrier guys off my back!:)

Hovering is probably fun, but we do everything else better.


Esoteric single-engine jet specialist
Care to expand on this?

I should be selecting in a month or so. I was all about the hornet throughout training until going out to the weps det. Dropping blue death and onav-ing through the mtns. was a blast.

You're going through the same thought process that I went through when I was in your shoes. I loved everything about air to ground and the low level flying, and I loved the idea too that Harriers meant that I would be more in touch with the air-ground team.

The Harrier is one of the most unique military aircraft in existence and it's also arguably the most challenging, though that needs qualification. There's no doubt that the fighter mission is challenging, but flying the Hornet itself is pretty easy once you learn all the integrated systems. So outside of night recoveries on the boat, the scare factor is generally pretty well managed.

The Harrier is a stick & rudder, old-school aviator's jet that demands your complete attention throughout the envelope. Some would argue that this effectively inhibits mission effectiveness because of the "bandwidth" you have to devote to just flying the damn thing. In truth though it has about the best ergonomics of any cockpit out there and it has phenomenal air-to-ground capabilities. It is also the most ridiculously overpowered piece of hardware you're ever likely to get to fly which means that it is fun as hell and will leave you in awe after every flight - the vertical landing is just icing on the cake.

It's true that the Harrier has rarely been employed how it was designed to be, but don't sweat that. As frustrating as the MEU can be it is still a great experience and you will greatly benefit by directly planning with the guys you're going to support. If you manage to go on a squadron deployment, all the better. I was on freq with the currently deployed squadron in theater a few days ago and they were getting it done so there's no question that they are as relevant and capable as anyone, if not more so.

If you're about to select you've got nothing to lose by going Harriers now. You may be well postured for a move to F-35s after a fleet tour in AV-8s, which would give you a solid background in VSTOL ops and attack with growth into a cutting edge cockpit - that'd make for a sweet career in my book.


Alpha Mike Foxtrot
Ok, I know this post has been dead for a while, but I have a few questions. I'm a Marine Stud in Kingsville getting ready to wing here in a few weeks. I've been a member of this forum for a while, but rarely post. I've read and re-read some of these posts, but figured I'd get it going again since a few of us down here in South Texas have some questions.

We have several Hornet and Harrier IPs down here, and it seems as if the overall 'health' of both communities is hurting. The Hornet guys tell horror stories of how they got IAd here, and again there, and barely got any flight time in their 3 year JO tour. Then they get sent to the VTs to instruct or get sent to God knows where (not flying), and are unable to get back to the fleet for lack of quals, lack of space, etc. Does this happen a lot? I typically don't use the 'back when' card, but growing up as a kid I never heard of this from my old man. By the time he was a DH it was his 5th flying tour (1980-2004 timeframe) Also, of all of the hornet IPs that I've known since I've been in flight school I can't name you ONE that has gotten back to the fleet to fly. Several are coasties now, one transitioned to the Osprey, and some are selling their souls on 'bad deal' tours just for a hopeful shot to get back to the fleet as a DH, despite the fact that will only be their second tour in the jet.

Is it like this for the Harrier guys as well? That is one community that I really don't know much about in terms of follow on orders, and ability to get back to the fleet.

I understand the different missions of the Hornet and Harrier, and well versed on the duty stations, and what kind of deployments they go on, etc. But I guess my big questions are how life is in each community and how easy/hard it is to get BACK there to continue flying after your JO tour. Now I'm not naive enough to think we're still in the 'good old days' and will get to have flying tours back to back to back. I know that I'll spend time out of the cockpit, and I have a few things that I think I'd like to do to round myself out into a good Marine Officer, but thats down the road a bit.

I'm not really sure that I will even get a choice in where I go, since the end of the FY rapidly approaches, but I do know that either platform would be pretty awesome. I'm just trying to gather up any info I can so that If I do get to make a choice, I'll have all the info I can possibly find, read, or listen to to make the best choice.



Fly Navy! ...or USMC
Super Moderator
...the noise level is so high that during launch and recovery of a -35B, as of now, their recommendationt is that no one will be allowed to be topside. Of course, that's what they are saying now ... perhaps, instead, NAVAIR will start a project for new and improved hearing protection :icon_tong

That's been underway for some time (ie years) and some cool technology derived from NASCAR driver's ANR has been tested (tried them myself). BTW - New cranials are also under development.


Registered User
I'm hearing the same horror stories that flybw has posted. I'm still in primary, but we are on pace to rip through the curriculum in about 3 months, so selection is going to pop up faster than I originally expected. Can anybody comment on the overall status of the Jet communities? It seems like we are seeing a lot of Harrier IPs here in Primary, and not as many Hornet guys. Are these guys the lucky ones who are still flying, just not in a jet? Is the Marine Corps making too many Jet guys?

I'm not looking for a flying club, but I'd rather fly anything else in inventory over a desk. If there's one thing I hate, it's a job the Marine Corps finds for you because they don't need you right now.


Old RIOs never die: They just can't fast-erect
Vick says "the Marine Corps is a niche service" . . [that] will "sometimes paint themselves into a corner". I reckon: what will they do if they get 300 or so F-35Bs & have to dump all their Hornets?


Well-Known Member
Hornet guys that you meet in the VT's are probably not coming back to the fleet and quite possibly aren't planning to. Being out of the Hornet for 3 years and then coming back and trying to become proficient again just doesn't happen...at least not really. You have nothing that anyone in the fleet wants. Once you head off to the VTs, I can nearly say your days in the fleet are done. But then again, that's why guys go to the VTs, to stop deploying. If you want to stay in the fleet, your options are pretty much go on a FAC tour or go to EWS and hope you did well enough in your first tour that your Squadron wants you back. Almost anything else and you're out too long for anyone to want you back. IAs are everywhere, you have to deal with it, you WILL get one, it's almost that simple. After my first tour, I will have done an Iraq deployment, an Afghanistan deployment, and a WESTPAC....and with combat deployments winding down, maybe stearing clear of the fleet after your first tour is a good choice. Who knows? Everybody is marginally hurting, that's the truth, but I'm still flying 20+ hours a month, so I can't complain. Not all Marine Hornets are trapped out Navy models, ours haven't been to the boat in like 17 years, and are AWESOME when it comes to FLE, ie we don't even worry about it.


Alpha Mike Foxtrot
I'm not complaining about the possibility of an IA, and I'm actually looking forward to having the chance to do a FAC tour. I just want to make sure I can talk to as many people as possible about their career paths and how to make smart decisions in todays Marine Corps. If you dont mind, can you throw out a quick summary of what you've done and where you've been so far? I'd like to compare that to some Harrier guys and see what the deal is.

I understand that dudes come to the VTs to get out, or not to deploy, but frankly some of them got sent here and are dying to get back. Are they only here because they aren't wanted in the fleet? I can't immagine thats the case because we have AWESOME IPs who will break their back to teach you how to fly this jet. Furthermore, some got sent to MATSG 21 or 22, and then got told they were going to primary VTs. They were pretty crushed about that.

I've heard, and try to live by the simple rule that being a good dude, good officer, and good pilot and you'll be wanted every where you go, but I just want to be as informed as possible.If I had to come up with an answer right now, on the spot, I would tell you that I want to stay in as long as possible. This is subject to change, but I just want to start thinking two moves ahead. Thanks


UAL; retired hinge
Just to throw it out there….I know of two IPs from K-rock just this summer that got orders back to the Hornet, one being selected for the Canadian F/A-18 exchange tour. I also know of a Harrier dude who got sent back to the fleet. I agree though that the majority of Marines that go to the training command are looking for low stress, lots of flight time and are looking to get out.

The dudes who are really screwed at getting back to their fleet jet after Meridian/K-rock are the ones who went straight to the training command after their first fleet tour. They will have to do a non-flying gig after their training command gig. The majority of those orders are 2-3 years because they will be O-4/O-4(sel) and by the time they are finished with that tour, they will have been out of their fleet jet 5+ years.

The dudes who want to get back to their fleet jet have the best chance by having a FAC/EWS (or any other 1 year DIFDEN orders) after their first fleet tour before going to the training command. The “used car salesman”, aka the Monitor, will push DIFDEN orders after the training command but politely remind him of your DIFDEN orders prior to the training command and the numerous dudes out there who are getting back to back flying gigs (I know of a handful of guys who have done 3 consecutive DIFOP orders…I have a good bro who did 3 ½ yrs first tour, went to the FRS as an IP, and got orders this summer back to a MAG).

My 2¢… Be flexible, coming out of the training command the monitor won’t write you orders to a sqd or even a MAG, but he can write you DIFOP to the Wing or MWSS and you can do a CAT 3 refresh from there. If you are a Harrier dude, ask to go to 2d MAW so you have -203 there to refresh…if you are a Hornet guy, ask for 3dMAW so you can refresh at -101. Sure, your first year on the wing staff will suck, but you’ll be current and you can network your way back down to the MAG, and maybe a squadron.

As for flight time in a Hornet or Harrier squadron … it’s squadron dependant…depends on how well Ops & Maintenance works to massage the jets, deployment cycle, and what quals you have. As for IA’s… they are still out there. It goes back to timing, and how well you fly and do your ground job, ie don't suck.

Being out of the Hornet for 3 years and then coming back and trying to become proficient again just doesn't happen...at least not really. You have nothing that anyone in the fleet wants.
I tend to disagree that a 2000 hour training command guy coming back to the Hornet after 3-4 years has nothing to offer (if he was able to get his quals during his first fleet tour) … sure, he’s not going to be the guy going to TG or WTI but he’s going to bring flight discipline and leadership. You won’t be teaching that guy how to be a wingman because he already knows how to fly and a CAT3 syllabus will get that guy back up to speed with tactics. Throw him in a 2 seat squadron and that can also mitigate any tactical deficiencies with running the radar or FLIR. That guy will be getting his section lead & div lead qual's back pretty quick. I think a squadron CO would rather have a guy like that than some second tour 500 hr guy who's coming back to the fleet with no quals/section lead only or some WSO retread O-4 (no hate there) that is truly a wingman.


Former Rhino Bro
I understand that dudes come to the VTs to get out, or not to deploy, but frankly some of them got sent here and are dying to get back. Are they only here because they aren't wanted in the fleet?

FWIW, one of our VT IPs just got picked up for the Blues.


Alpha Mike Foxtrot

Thanks. Thats exactly the kind of information that I'm looking for. These are the type of things we don't hear much about when we are here, and to be honest, it seems as if these kind of questions could easily sneak up on guys when they are already in the fleet and at the end of a tour saying to themselves "what now."
If you don't mind, would you tell me what kind of stuff you've done up to this point in the fleet? Are you a Miramar or Beaufort guy?

I didn't mean to imply that nobody is getting back to the fleet, and I did know about Maj. M getting into the PEP program. Is that a good move for your career? He was an awesome IP, and I really regret never getting to fly with him. I'm sure that flying up at Cold Lake will be pretty bad ass, but is that something that makes you valuable on the back side in the fleet?

C420, thanks for the input, but isn't the IP from VT-7 headed to the Blues a Navy dude? I'm a Marine stud, so I'm trying to gather some gouge on the green side of the house.

Anyone have any harrier input?

Harrier Dude

Living the dream
As far as Harrier input goes, I think that the situation is the same as with the Hornet community. That said, I see a few wrinkles with Jarheads advice. It's not "wrong", but there are several ways that it can backfire.

First of all, recognize that whenever you leave the community for any length of time you risk not being able to come back. It's a pretty low risk, but there nonetheless. The longer you're gone and the fewer quals/hours you have, the more risk.

The days of going to the training command and returning as a captain are over. Used to be the standard way back in the day. So this is really a question of how majors get orders to the fleet.

As a general rule majors are on a DIFOP/DIFDEN alternating cycle. It's pretty hard to go back to back in the cockpit, though not impossible. Pretty much the only way to do it is to convince your monitor that you need a department head billet for career progression. He may or may not buy that. Each year there are X number of majors billets in each MAG and Y number of majors trying to go back. The number one criteria that the monitor uses in each case is DIFOP status. What you're essentially saying to the monitor is that "I deserve to go straight back to the fleet before one of the other guys who just sucked up a tour out of the cockpit because of (fill in the blank)".

The other guys have the same department head requirements that you do, so that's a wash. What else do you have? WTI?A personal request from the MAG CO? Pictures of the monitor playing golf with Satan?

It'd better be good if you are going to "cut in front" of other dudes coming off DIFDEN orders. Of course, you might get lucky and the MAGs need more majors than are trying to get back there, which happens sometimes, but I wouldn't count on it.

The best plan is to ask for what you want, but have a backup plan that will work. Here's where I see risk with Jarheads plan: the monitor ONLY cares about your DIFOP status. He could give a shit if you flew a single hour or not. DIFOP is DIFOP. If you are at MAW or MWSS DIFOP, then as far as he's concerned, you flew as much as a squadron OpsO. You will not. Not even close. It may be advantageous to ask for DIFDEN orders in order to preserve your chances of getting to actually fly next time around. Otherwise, you could spend two years or so DIFOP, then get orders to DC with about 30 or so hours to show for it.

If you end up getting DIFDEN orders out of your VT IP tour, there are other ways to mitigate that. Have a reasonable "bad deal" plan to propose to the monitor. Regimental, Division or MEU Air Officer or TACRON are fairly quick turns back to the fleet. So is resident PME, but that's looked at generally as a good deal, so it could backfire.

Having fleet quals will help your case, but those are more or less assumed if you are going to be competitive to come back. By that I mean section lead as an absolute minimum, but more realistically division lead is assumed. WTI is a great card to play, but they don't often send them to the TRACOM anyway. Being an LSO (advanced or training) helps, but ALL of your quals will need to be refreshed anyway. It's easier if you already held them.

FWIW, here's what I did:

4 years in the fleet.
3 years as a RAG instructor
1 year as a Division Air Officer (Okinawa, unaccompanied)
1.5 years as a Department Head in the fleet
2.5 years as an MWSS XO (DIFDEN by request)
Currently on station staff (DIFOP) flying C-12s.

I would have never gotten these orders if I was DIFOP at MWSS. I'd be rockin a cubicle in the five sided wind tunnel right now.

There's nothing wrong with going to the VTs. Just know that you may have some trouble getting back to the fleet. If you definitely want to be a 20 year fleet guy, don't take that risk. Take a FAC tour or EWS and come straight back.

Good luck.