Spanish Navy to keep Harrier jets operational until at least 2030

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The Spanish Navy is committed to keeping its fleet of AV-8B+ Harrier jets operational until at least 2030, despite the increasing challenges as other countries retire their Harrier fleets.

The ten single-seat Harriers are reportedly in good condition. Seven aircraft —70% of them—are deployed on the amphibious assault ship Juan Carlos I for Operation Dédalo 24. This deployment has been active since early April 2024 and will continue until mid-July 2024, covering diverse operational areas such as the Eastern Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea.

“This figure underscores the professionalism and good work of the maintainers at all levels,” Captain Regodón Gómez, Commander of the Spanish Naval Aviation, commented in an interview with Info Defensa. “We are very aware that the challenge is very important because the other two users of the model [the Italian Navy and the US Marine Corps – ed. note] decommission it.”

Spain has taken proactive steps to anticipate the upcoming deactivation of the last USMC Harrier squadrons by 2026. It has already secured contracts to support its Harriers until 2028 and aims to extend their service life to 2030.

“We are going to stockpile [spare parts], taking advantage of the fact that other fleets will be deactivated,” Gómez added. “But we are aware that it does not matter to have 99.99% of the parts necessary for the operation; If for any reason that 0.01% is not there or has expired, the plane will not be able to fly.”

To address this, the Spanish Navy is working closely with Airbus to prepare for unforeseen issues, relying on the manufacturer to manage unexpected defects or malfunctions. 

Spain is mulling the acquisition of Lockheed Martin F-35B fighter jets [the short take-off and vertical landing variant – ed. note] to equip the Spanish Naval Aviation. However, the order has not been confirmed yet, which puts the replacement of the Harrier fleet at risk beyond 2030.

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