The single-seat plane was returning to the base after a training flight when it crashed about 12:30 p.m. in an unpopulated area, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point spokesman Mike Barton said. No one else was hurt, Barton said.
Local authorities say the crash, about a mile east of the base off N.C. Highway 101, did not affect the few homes in the area.
The pilot's identity was being withheld until next-of-kin was notified and an investigation had begun, Barton said. The AV-8B Harrier jet was assigned to Marine Attack Training Squadron 203.
Another Harrier crashed in February near Cherry Point, but the pilot wasn't injured. In May, a two-seat training model of the Harrier crashed in Arizona, but the pilots ejected safely.
Monday's crash comes the same month that a Marine jet crashed in a San Diego neighborhood near its base, killing four people on the ground.
WNCT-TV in Greenville reported that a hunter nearby said the jet was making an odd noise and belching smoke and flames before it crashed.