Butterfield Supports JSF Squadrons for Cherry Point
Jacksonville, N.C. – Congressman G. K. Butterfield has urged the Marine Corps to place up to 11 Joint Strike Fighter squadrons at MCAS Cherry Point.
As part of the process for basing 11 squadrons of the F-35B – a short take-off, vertical landing version of the Joint Strike Fighter – the Marine Corps sought public comment and Butterfield has responded with a letter.
“Given the location, support of the community and ready access to world-class maintenance, MCAS Cherry Point provides an unparalleled fit,” Butterfield said.
The U.S. Marine Corps plans to base and operate 11 F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (F-35B) squadrons and the F-35B Pilot Training Center (PTC), which will be composed of two Fleet Replacement Squadrons (FRS), at East Coast air stations and within existing regional training airspace and ranges.
The F-35B would replace the Second Marine Air Wing’s F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier aircraft currently based at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort, S.C. and MCAS Cherry Point, N.C., respectively.
Butterfield said that squadron basing would provide enormous economic benefits to the community, and would include new construction, additional aircraft maintenance and airfield operation.
Specifically, the proposal would base and operate 11 F-35B operational squadrons (which includes one Reserve squadron) with up to 16 aircraft per squadron and the PTC (composed of two FRSs) with 20 aircraft per FRS.
To date, the Marine Corps has identified four alternatives as well as a “take no action alternative” for evaluation.
Butterfield said that he supports either of the first two options, which would provide eight or 11 operational squadrons at MCAS Cherry Point, respectively.
Below is the text of Butterfield’s letter sent as part of the Environmental Impact Statement process:
I write to commend the United States Marine Corps for its preparation of the F-35B East Coast Basing Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). As the Marine Corps completes its study of East Coast basing options for 13 squadrons of the F-35B, I strongly support the preferred alternative listed in the DEIS, “Alternative One,” which places eight Operational Squadrons at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point. I also support “Alternative Two” which would place 11 Operational Squadrons at MCAS Cherry Point. I am confident that MCAS Cherry Point has unsurpassed capability to house these squadrons.
MCAS Cherry Point is home to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. It is located in Havelock, North Carolina, in my Congressional district. Its geographical location provides a tremendous benefit to the Marine Corps and the entire military. As a multi-role fighter, the F-35B will need to train for a variety of functions including air-to-air, air-to-ground, and close air support. MCAS Cherry Point’s access to training airspace and ranges is compatible with the stated mission of the Marine Corps.
The City of Havelock is also home to Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) East. For more than 60 years, FRC East has played an important part in national defense. FRC East has earned a reputation of excellence in providing world-class maintenance, engineering and logistics support for Navy and Marine Corps aviation, as well as other armed services, federal agencies and foreign governments. Their skilled workforce uses state-of-the-art technology to ensure that FRC East provides unsurpassed quality, cost-effective support.
In addition to its strategic military location, the City of Havelock and its residents welcome the F-35B as well as the manpower needed to support its mission. Havelock’s City administration, led by Mayor Jimmy Sanders and a very capable Board of Commissioners, are continuously involved with Colonel Douglas Denn, MCAS Cherry Point Commanding Officer, as well as the entire leadership at MCAS Cherry Point. This proactive outreach helps the City meet the needs of Marines and their families both on and off the base.
I hope you will continue to give serious consideration to “Alternative One” or “Alternative Two” when completing the Final Environmental Impact Statement for F-35B East Coast basing. The DEIS correctly states with regard to “Alternative One,” “this basing option best meets the purpose and need and balances environmental impacts with mission requirements.” I strongly support the Draft EIS and look forward to the benefits the F-35B will bring to Cherry Point, the City of Havelock, and Craven County.