Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow (ACT) is pleased that Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) East has been designated by the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) as the location of choice for the new F-35B Lift Fan Repair Facility.
The new facility has been a topic of much effort over the last several years, but recently has been the focus of increased attention because budget constraints and repair facility options had caused the JPO to reconsider the F-35B repair plans. Most notably, the Air Force repair depot at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma had expressed a strong desire to have the lift fan work relocated there. Because of the importance of the F-35B to the growth of our military and the security of our country, it is critically important to the long-term stability of the FRC East workforce.
“This is a great example of how the Cherry Point Community has rallied to protect missions and assets important to the future of FRC East,” said Marc Finlayson of ACT. “The North Carolina Congressional delegation has been instrumental in keeping Cherry Point at the forefront during these critical decisions. We extend our thanks to Senators Tillis and Burr as well as to Representatives Jones, Butterfield and Holding. “We are cognizant that although FRC East has been designated as the lift fan repair depot, the facility has neither been authorized nor funded, and there is still a lot of work to be done,” says Finlayson. “But we are confident that our delegation and our partners in the Pentagon will work diligently to secure the funding and keep the project on schedule.”
From a local perspective, the arrival of the facility should ensure the protection of current jobs at FRC East and could introduce many more newly created positions throughout all stages (from site construction prior to aircraft deployment to aircraft repair for years to come). James Norment, consultant to ACT, underscored the importance of the new facility to local economic development by stating that the new facility is considered “the same as any major investment that may be made at Research Triangle Park or other places in the state. It’s essential for the F-35 work that will be done at Cherry Point for not only maintaining the workforce we have now, but also increasing it over time.”
The selection process was thorough and required site visits from members of the F-35 Joint Program Office and the Naval Air Depot Source of Repair to confirm that building the repair facility at Cherry Point is the best decision. From a financial perspective, as well as acknowledging that the facility needs to be built at a location close to where pilots will actually be flying the jets, decision makers agreed that Cherry Point is the best location.
“Cherry Point will eventually have more jets than any other Marine Corps installation and more B variants than anywhere else in the U.S.,” said James Norment of ACT. Cherry Point was recently authorized $23.3 million for Air Field Security Improvements in the October approval of the 2016 Defense budget. The combination of these two wins for Cherry Point further strengthens the commitment by Congress to help ensure that Cherry Point remains the premier base for F-35B fifth generation aircraft.
Submitted by: Shannon LuQuire, Trade Ideas Inc.