A fleet including 20 C-130Ts (Naval Reserve), 26 KC-130Ts (Marine) and 48 KC-130Js (Marine Corps/Marine Corps Reserve) is currently active. The Marine Corps KC-130J fleet is projected to grow to 79 aircraft and the Navy is to receive 25 KC-130Js.
The iconic Harrier debuted in the 1960s but the AV-8B entered service with the Marine Corps two decades later in 1985. It replaced the AV-8A in the light-attack role, which itself replaced the A-4 Skyhawk. While the AV-8A, which entered Marine Corps service in 1971, represented the first truly successful V/STOL design, the AV-8B delivered the performance expected of the Harrier from its inception.
Close air support, interdiction, all weather strike, and expeditionary operations from forward fields, aircraft carriers or amphibious assault ships are typical Harrier missions for the Marines and allied partners Spain and Italy. The AV-8B Weapon Systems Program Office (PMA-257) is responsible for sustainment of the AV-8B for all three users and has managed upgrades including the AV-8BII+, which features the APG-65 radar. About 175 Harriers including 15 TAV-8B trainers are in operation across active squadrons and one training squadron.
Retired from Navy service in 2015, the long-serving Prowler still flies with the Marine Corps though only four squadrons at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point operate about 20 EA-6Bs and the Prowler training unit (VMAQT-1) will stand down in 2016.
Suppression of enemy air defenses in support of strike aircraft and ground troops by interrupting enemy electronic activity has been the central Prowler mission since the aircraft’s 1971 introduction.
PMA-234, the Airborne Electronic Attack Systems and EA-6B Program Office, has guided the Prowler through several upgrades including the final ICAP III (Improved Capability) series that provided the aircraft with rapid detection capability, precise classification, and highly accurate geolocation of electronic emissions such as radars. The last EA-6Bs are slated to retire in 2019.
F-5 Tiger II
The Navy acquired the Northrop F-5F Tiger II in 1974 to perform the aggressor role, training Navy and Marine aircrews to deal with adversary combat tactics and dissimilar aircraft. The F-5 fleet was expanded and modernized with the purchase of 36 low-time F-5E/Fs from Switzerland in 2006. Along with American F-5Es, these were modified with radar warning receivers and enhanced radars and redesignated as F-5Ns. NAVAIR’s PMA-226 manages and supports the F-5 along with other specialized types. The Navy operates 30 F-5Ns, the Marines 11. Three F-5Fs are split between the Navy/Marines.