NC coastal Marine base deactivates squadron as Harrier phased out, welcomes F-35 Lightning

North Carolina news

MCAS CHERRY POINT, N.C. (WNCT) — It was the end of an era at the hangar at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, where the Marine Corp deactivated Attack Squadron 203 to make room to bring in the new jet, the F-35 Lightning and phase out the Harrier.

This is the only active unit to train pilots to fly the AV-8B Harrier for the Marine Corps which is gradually being replaced by the brand new F-35 Lightning.

Lt. Col. Daniel S. Fiust has been the commanding officer of Squadron 203 since 2019.

“The squadron started the 1940s training pilots since World War II all the way through the Korean War, Vietnam War, and it’s been training the pilots fly the Harrier for almost 40 years now. So truly historic day,” said Fuist.

Fuist also explained that most of the pilots from Squadron 203 will stay and continue their work. Most of the maintenance personnel will either stick with the Harrier or learn how to be F-35 mechanics.

“I came through as a student here in 2005. So to be able to be the final commanding officer is a huge honor for me, and I’ve flown this airplane over 2,500 hours all over the world,” added Fiust.

The Harrier will still be around for a few more years before it is completely phased out.

Fiust said the younger pilots can’t wait to fly the new Lighting F-35 which should be coming to Cherry Point in the coming months.

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