View Full Version : Meeting offers insight on new F-35 fighter jets

02-01-09, 07:59 AM
Meeting offers insight on new F-35 fighter jets
Published Sun, Feb 1, 2009 12:00 AM

Beaufort has a lot riding on the wings of the U.S. Marine Corps' next-generation fighter jet.

The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter will be a marvel of technology. It will be able to achieve speeds up to Mach 1.6, or about 1,200 mph. The Pentagon says it will have the most powerful engine ever installed in a fighter, with thrust equivalent to the F-18A Hornet now flown at the air station.

With the Pentagon planning to develop and buy about 2,440 planes for the Corps, the Air Force and Navy, the $300 billion outlay is predicted to be the costliest arms program in U.S. history.

Beaufort should be a part of it as the 29 F-18 Hornets now flown by pilots at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort are replaced. The F-35 is expected to be ready for combat missions by the Corps in 2012.

Exact fielding plans for the new planes are not yet known, but MCAS Beaufort should see its share of the action.

"With the transition to the JSF (Joint Strike Fighter), MCAS Beaufort will continue to be an integral part of the Marine Corps' aviation plan and the long-term fighter aircraft capability of this nation," the MCAS public affairs chief has said.

A notice published in January in the Federal Register shows MCAS Beaufort and MCAS Cherry Point (N.C.) as proposed locations for 13 Joint Strike Fighter squadrons. How they would be split up is not yet known. The air station now houses seven F-18A Hornet squadrons, including one for the U.S. Navy.

For many years, Beaufort has welcomed the fighter jets and all the people it takes to support each plane with open arms.

That welcome goes beyond smiles and handshakes. It is written into ordinances and business plans.

Beaufort County has done a good job of limiting development that could encroach on the air station's ability to perform its mission.

Beaufort leaders have worked hard to define the air station's value to the nation, to the Corps and to this community as Congress has gone through grueling base closure exercises.

The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Lowcountry Economic Network have made their support for the new jet's basing in Beaufort well known.

All these efforts stress that the "Sound of Freedom" from the fighter jets forms an important part of both the economy and culture of this community. Other communities might make cars or computers. We make Marines, and we are proud of it.

Now we urge residents to get involved in the Joint Strike Fighter plans.

The Marine Corps will take public comment on the possibility of basing the Joint Strike Fighter at MCAS Beaufort at a meeting scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Holiday Inn on Boundary Street. Gathering this input is part of the Corps' task to fashion an environmental impact statement about the jets' arrival and operations in the skies above Beaufort.

We urge that the public comment be based on facts.

Information is to be available at booths and tables set up in the hotel conference room.

And a panel of experts will address two topics important to Beaufort: Noise, and the Air Installation Compatible Use Zone, or the zones around the air station in which development must be controlled to keep from interfering with base operations.

How the new fighter jets could affect either of these issues is important. Use Tuesday's meeting to get better informed.