17 August 2009

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, six Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II squadrons participated in the initial 26 days of combat flying nearly 2000 sorties from land bases in Kuwait and five of the Navy's big deck amphibious carriers. As the front lines rapidly moved northward towards Baghdad further away from the ships, the Harrier squadrons faced the problem of getting aerial refueling as high demand by other Coalition aircraft made tanking capacity scarce.

An out-of-action Iraqi air base at An Numaniyah was set up as for forward operating base to refuel the Marine Harriers. As the base's runways had been knocked out by Coalition air attacks, only the Harrier could use the base due to its unique V/STOL abilities. On 8 April 2003 a section of AV-8B Harrier IIs from VMA-542 landed at An Numaniyah at night, becoming the first Coalition tactical jets to touch down on Iraqi soil.

Source: Air Forces Monthly, August 2009. "Marine Harriers Over Iraq" by Warren E. Thompson, p80-81.

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