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AV-8B Harrier II Units of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm

by Lon Nordeen, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, England, 2011, $22.95

This book is long overdue for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the controversy that has hovered over the Harrier since its inception. While admittedly a giant leap forward in the VTOL field, its radical design suffered reliability and maintenance issues that were inherent in the tasks it was designed to do. Nevertheless, the AV-8B has served the U.S. Marine Corps well from the start, suiting the Marine concept of integrated close air support supplied from forward ships and bases.

The Marines, on the far end of the budgetary food chain in the Department of Defense, have nonetheless managed to back the most advanced aircraft, including the AV-8B, the V-22 Osprey and the F-35B. They know what they need, and they go for it. In Operation Desert Shield the Harrier II units were among the first to put the brakes on any Iraqi thoughts of invading Saudi Arabia. Then, during Operation Desert Storm, the AV-8Bs were constantly in demand for the work they did best, preparing the battlefield and providing up-close-and-personal air support for troops in contact.

This is the first of three books covering the history of the AV-8B planned by Lon Nordeen. Packed with facts and statistics, it nonetheless reads well and is supplemented by a host of photos, many never before published. An important validating characteristic of any author is the number of times his work is cited by others in the field. Nordeen receives very high marks in this regard; if you check any book that covers a topic he has written about, you will see that he is frequently quoted. AV-8B Harrier Units is a typical Nordeen product, which says it all.


Originally published in the May 2012 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.