News: Lightning strikes twice in Beaufort
Story by Sgt. Marcy Sanchez
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. - Distinguished guests and media witnessed a first in Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort history when the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter debuted to the Beaufort, S.C. community during a showcase of the aircraft aboard MCAS Beaufort, Aug. 20.
The showcase featured Maj. Gen. Robert F. Hedelund, the commanding general of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, II Marine Expeditionary Force, introducing the aircraft to the community with two F-35B Lightning II displays and two more F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters performing two flyovers above the hangar.
“Today is another step to the initial operating capabilities of this aircraft and what an awesome capability it is,” said Hedelund. “It is an astonishing leap in capability in what is available in any aircraft worldwide.”
According to Hedelund, the showcase is part of a Corps-wide initiative to introduce the F-35B to the local communities where the aircraft will call home.
“We needed to take another step in normalizing the F-35B relationship with the local community and the Marine Corps,” said Hedelund. “There’s a lot of work to be done, and today is another step in completing that work.”
The Marine Corps’ first F-35 training squadron, Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, is currently located at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida but will relocate its Marines and aircraft to MCAS Beaufort in 2014. VMFAT-501 falls under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 31, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, which is located aboard MCAS Beaufort.
“The information superiority that this aircraft gives us in addition to its weapons superiority makes it a stunning capability,” said Hedelund. “Our nation, the local community have made an extreme investment in this program and in this capability, we are extremely excited to be a part of that.”
The event attracted local community and political leaders to experience what will be the future of the Lowcountry community.
“An absolute marvel in terms of technical capacity, and I think it’s a real compliment to the Lowcountry that they’d choose to station these planes here given the long level of base support that you see at the local level,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina.
Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said he had concerns from skeptical residents about the possible noise from the event.
“I could barely hear them,” said Keyserling. “The flyover noise was inconsequential when compared to the F-18 and what we’re used to.”
“I think what I’ve seen today is an overwhelming embrace of this new plane and the fact that it’s going to be here,” said Sanford.
Past relationships with the local community were also recognized during the presentation forming an overall depiction of what the F-35B Lightning II JSF will bring to the Beaufort community.
“The teamwork that the local community is really famous for is going to make this capability here at [MCAS Beaufort], 2nd MAW and across the Corps, even more formidable in the manifestation of this aircraft,” said Hedelund. “We want to ensure that Marines, families and the local community here are comfortable with what the F-35 brings to the local community and what it brings to our Corps and our country.”
The F-35 will replace the Marine Corps’ aging legacy tactical fleet providing the dominant, multi-role, fifth-generation capabilities needed across the full spectrum of combat operations to deter potential adversaries and enable future naval aviation power projection.