An AV-8B Harrier (left) and F-35B Lightning II over Imperial County. Marine Corps photo

The second to last squadron of AV-8B Harrier II jets at Yuma has been deactivated in preparation for the Marines’ transition to F-35B Lighting II stealth fighters at Miramar.

Marine Attack Squadron 311 was temporarily deactivated last week but will be reactivated in 2022 in San Diego with the new short-takeoff and vertical-landing jets.

The temporary sunset of the VMA-311 “Tomcats” leaves the VMA-214 “Black Sheep” as the only Harrier squadron left in the Pacific region. Squadrons forward-deployed to Japan already fly the F-35B.

“While VMA-311 is proud to have employed the Harrier in support of numerous military conflicts, the Marine Corps’ transition to the F-35B marks one of the many advancements that the Marine Corps is taking to maintain air-superiority and ensure mission readiness,” the Marines said in a statement.

Both jets can take off in a few hundred feet from amphibious assault ships and land vertically, but the stealthy F-35 can reach supersonic speed while avoiding enemy radar. The F-35B also has a longer range and can carry more weapons.

VMA-311 has a history of notable “firsts,” most recently the first combat missions in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.