Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

This field trip report covers the aircraft and helicopters on display at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma in Yuma, Arizona. I visited the base on a business trip in July 2021 and was able to take some time to check out and photograph the aircraft that they have on display. MCAS Yuma is home to AV-8B Harrier IIs and F-35 Lightning IIs operated by the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1), Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1), and Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 (VMFT-401).

There are two groups of aircraft on display that have served at MCAS Yuma over the last 50 years. The first is at the main gate and the second is in front of the base headquarters building.

Main Gate Display

The display by the main gate has five aircraft:

  1. Hawker Siddeley AV-8A Harrier mounted on a pedestal in the markings of the VMA-513 “Flying Nightmares”.
  2. Douglas A4L Skyhawk, also on a pedestal, in markings of VMA-214 “Black Sheep”.
  3. McDonnell F-4B Phantom II in the markings of VMFAT-101 “Sharpshooters”).
  4. Northrup F-5E Tiger II in a two-brown aggressor lizard scheme in the markings of the VMFT-401 “Snipers” aggressor squadron.
  5. McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II in the markings of the VMA-211 “Wake Island Avengers/Bastion Defenders” (pics 1-12). This is the latest addition to this display. Some of the aircraft carry rocket pods and Mk 82 bombs.

VMA-214 flew various versions of the A-4 Skyhawkfor 27 years to June 1989, when they transitioned to the AV-8B Harrier. They are currently transitioning to the F-35B. VMFAT-101 was the last USMC F-4 training unit with its F-4’s being retired in May 1987. It then transitioned to the F/A-18. VMA-513 was decommissioned in July 2013 after 69 years of service, last flying the AV-8B. It was recommissioned in June 2020 as a F-35B Fleet Replacement Squadron (training unit).

Pictures of the aircraft display by the main gate are posted below. 

Headquarters Building Display

The display by the headquarters building includes:

  1. Bell HH-1N Iroquois “Huey” in the markings of the Yuma Search and Rescue Flight.  This HH-1N was previously displayed by the main gate, but was moved to this area to make way for the new AV-8B. 
  2. Beech UC-12B Huron logistical operations support aircraft.
  3. McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier in the markings of the VMA-311 “Tomcats.”  (pics 22-25).  The AV-8B has Mk-82 bombs with BSU-49 high-drag tail units on the wing pylons. 

VMA-311 flew Harriers from Sep 2000 to May 2016. They transitioned to F-35Bs in May 2016 and its designation was changed to VMFA-311. The UC-21’s at Yuma were replaced by newer UC-12’s in 2012. The HH-1N Hueys at Yuma were recently retired.

Pictures of the aircraft display by the headquarters building are posted below.

It is somewhat difficult to get close to or visit the gate display because it is up against the outbound road on one side (narrow sidewalk there and a low fence), the base outer fence on another, and some trees and bushes on the last side. You have to park your car behind one of the nearby buildings and hike through some grass to get there. Therefore, I have a mix of pictures with some taken from my car when stopped at the red light while on the way out the gate, some after I hiked over to the display, and some from the main drag outside the base. An interesting group of aircraft and worth the hike if you want to get close up. The outside-the-base look will be necessary if you do not have ID that will let you get on the base. A drive-by / pause will work if there is little traffic. Or you can park across the street and walk over to the fence line. The display by the headquarters building is easily accessible from a parking lot right next to it. If you are on Interstate 8 driving between Phoenix and San Diego, it is just a short detour to get to the base and check out the display.