With the capability to carry a variety of weapons such as air-to-air missiles, precision guided bombs, and a 25mm machine gun that can fire up to 3,600 rounds per minute, the Harrier is the Marine Corps' top choice when they need close air support where airfields are hard to come by.
"On my first flight, my instructor told me it was going to be like riding a dragon," says Marine Capt. Brady Cummins during an interview. "He was definitely telling the truth."
The AV-8B Harrier II was the first Marine tactical aircraft to arrive in the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Storm in the early '90s.
According to Boeing, the U.S. took 86 Harriers, flew 3,380 combat sorties and totaled 4,112 hours of combat flight time during the 42-day war.
These aerial marvels are known for their fixed-wing vertical short takeoff and landing — also known as "V/STOL" — which makes the Harrier one of the most maneuverable in service. The Harrier's engines produce 23,000 pounds of thrust, allowing the aircraft to hover like a helicopter or launch forward at near-supersonic speeds.
At only 47 feet long and weighing 15,000 pounds when empty, this combat jet is approximately half the size of other modern fighter jets.
Check out the Smithsonian Channel's video to see the Marine piloted Harrier soar like a medieval dragon for yourself.