MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- The F-35B Lightning II arrived at Cherry Point July 9, from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, for its first scheduled maintenance at Fleet Readiness Center East.
The F-35B is the first multi-roll fifth-generation aircraft in the Marine Corps arsenal and will undergo modifications at FRC East.
“This is the first F-35B to be induced into the modification line to continue to advance the airframe,” said Lt. Col. Steve Gillette, a pilot attached to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 who flew the F-35B to Cherry Point. “I have been a part of the F-35 program out of Eglin AFB in Florida for the past three years and it’s nice to see the progression that happened over that time period for the aircraft.”
FRC East held an invitation-only ceremony for the arrival of the aircraft July 15 at the facility’s hangar. N.C. Sen. Kay Hagan and Lt. Gen. Robert E. Schmidle Jr., the deputy commandant for aviation, came out to speak about the F-35B and Cherry Point.
“We now have an aircraft that can do full regional operations all of the time,” said Schmidle. “That’s what makes this airplane different; it’s the fact that it can do vertical take-offs and landings and has short take-off and landing capabilities. This is the future of tactical aviation in the Marine Corps, and we are just delighted that it will be here in Cherry Point.”
The first modification on the aircraft will be reinforcing hinges located on the top of the aircraft where two doors open during vertical operations. The reinforced hinges will ease some of the vibrations the aircraft undergoes during take-off.
“I flew the F-4 when I first started flying,” said Schmidle. “This airplane is generations beyond the F-4 and when we went from the F-4 to the F-18 that was a big leap. But now, this is an even greater leap which is much more significant.”
Gillette says flying the aircraft is very easy and it contains a cutting edge sensor system that allows pilots to easily gather information giving them the capability of displaying live video in flight.
“Every time I get out of that airplane, I’m ear-to-ear grinning,” said Gillette. “I look forward to seeing it develop more here at FRC East when the modifications begin.”
Hagen praised Schmidle during the ceremony for pushing to get the F-35B to Cherry Point.
“I’ve heard about the F-35B for many years and it is truly an honor to be here today,” said Hagan. “With the arrival of the F-35B, the future of Marine Corps aviation has come to Cherry Point. I know there is no better depot in the country to perform the maintenance.”