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FRC East, Dignitaries Celebrate F-35 Arrival at Cherry Point

Havelock News // July 15, 2013

FRC East workers and dignitaries gathered for a ceremony marking the arrival of the first F-35B Joint Strike Fighter to the Cherry Point maintenance and repair facility.

Sometimes, big things come in small packages.

That was the case Monday at Cherry Point when the first F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter was officially inducted for modifications at Fleet Readiness Center East.

At slightly longer than 51 feet and with a wingspan of 35 feet, the sleek, gray jet sat securely behind a rope line in the corner of Hangar I surrounded by an arc of dignitaries and employees.

“This is huge to FRC East. It’s almost beyond description,” said Col. Blayne H. Spratlin, commanding officer for the Cherry Point aircraft maintenance facility. “It’s big for Eastern North Carolina. It’s big for the Marine Corps. It’s really just a super day.”

FRC East is the first Naval Aviation Depot to do the first modifications on the F-35.

“It’s an honor for here at Cherry Point, and we’re just looking forward to it and we’re ready to get to work on it,” Spratlin said.

The fifth-generation aircraft is considered the future of fixed-wing Marine Corps aviation. It will replace the AV-8B Harrier, F/A-18 Hornet and EA/6B Prowler.

“This airplane is critical to the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Gen. Robert E. Schmidle Jr., Marine Corps deputy commandant for aviation. “This is the future of tactical aviation in the Marine Corps, and we’re delighted to have it here at Cherry Point."

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