Here’s an interesting photo of Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers aboard the USS Makin Island in the Pacific Ocean about to be armed with AIM-120 AMRAAMs. Yup, Harriers armed with the U.S.’ premiere air-to-air weapon. This marks the first time that USMC Harriers have carried AMRAAMs on an operational deployment. Pretty interesting considering that one typically thinks of the Harrier as a close air support jet — although, the British Sea Harrier has air-to-air kills under its belt.
I’ve got to wonder if the Harriers are being armed with the AMRAAMs to hedge against a potential shortage of USMC air-to-air fighters that could happen as the Corps’ oldest F/A-18 Hornets reach the end of their service lives before the Marines’ F-35B Joint Strike Fighter becomes available. Heck, we already know that the Corps is buying Britain’s entire GR7/9 Harrier fleet to hedge against the looming fighter gap.