Marines experience their worst air disaster in nearly half a century
You may not have heard it like this, but earlier this month one of the worst U.S military air disasters in nearly half a century happened during a terrorist attack on the airfield at Camp Bastion in Southern Afghanistan.
U.S. Marine Corps Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211), based at Yuma Marine Corps Base, Ariz., not only had two Marines killed, but also had six late-model AV-8B II Harrier jump jets destroyed, and another two of the aircraft damaged likely beyond repair.
That's eight sophisticated combat aircraft out of commission. A Marine attack squadron normally has a complement of about 12 aircraft, which means VMA-211 effectively is out of business. The attack has been called the worst Marine Corps aviation disaster since the Vietnam Tet Offensive in 1968.
-- Navy looks to Boeing for repair and upgrade of Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jump jets
-- Navy chooses TEAC recorders for AV-8B jet
-- Marines are also involved in AV-8B avionics program.
It's possible the squadron eventually could refit with F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters, or perhaps even with the new F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters, but whatever happens, it probably won't happen quickly.
For a squadron to switch aircraft is not a trivial process. Pilots must be retrained, ground crewmen must requalify on new aircraft, logistics, support, and maintenance must be retooled. Suffice it to say, this squadron as an independent unit effectively will be grounded for quite some time.
VMA-211 is nicknamed the Wake Island Avengers. It's a name its members take to heart.
VMA-211's Henry T. Elrod, was the first U.S. Marine airman to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II.
In the terrorist attack in Afghanistan earlier this month, Taliban attackers wore American military uniforms, which added to the confusion. All the attackers reportedly were killed in a firefight, but the damage was done.
We'll have to wait and see what ultimately happens to VMA-211.