An AV-8B Harrier embarked with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, or MEU, was heavily damaged Jan. 5 after it ingested a refueling strap during maintenance.

The Corps provided few details regarding the accident, but a spokesman with the MEU, Capt. Joshua Smith, told Marine Corps times that the incident occurred aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship Kearsarge.

Smith added that the aircraft was damaged during “routine maintenance” and that no one was injured.

A military safety brief listed the incident as a Class A mishap, which is defined by the Navy as an accident where an aircraft is destroyed or sustains $2 million or more in damages.

It’s the third major aviation mishap for the Corps over the past two months.

In early December, a KC-130 collided with an F/A-18 off the coast of Japan. A massive search and rescue operation was launched to locate the crew and pilots.

One Marine, an F/A-18 weapons officer, was rescued in the incident. The remaining six were declared dead; five of them were part of the KC-130 crew.

Pings from the flight data recorders from the wreckage have since been detected, according to Marine officials.

And on Dec. 9, a CH-53 heavy lift helicopter was damaged during a ground taxi after the landing gear accidentally retracted. That accident occurred aboard Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina.

The AV-8B Harrier is an aging airframe for the Corps and is slowly being phased out by the new high-tech stealth F-35B.

While the Corps slowly transitions to the F-35, some MEUs are still carrying AV-8Bs. The 13th and 31st MEUs thus far have both deployed with F-35s.

The Corps’ 2018 aviation plan said the East Coast would continue to operate the older Harriers until fiscal year 2026 and listed a total 126 AV-8Bs across the force.

The aviation plan said the West Coast Marine Attack Squadrons would complete their transition to the F-35 by 2022.

The 22nd MEU was operating somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea at the time of the Harrier incident.

The MEU just wrapped up a port visit to Souda Bay, Greece, on Jan. 9.

The incident is currently under investigation.

Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.

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