Jets to play vital role in national defense, local economy

Construction of a $33 million F-35 pilot training center and $37 million Joint Strike Fighter training hangar, along with improved flight trials of the Marine Corps’ F-35B model, are timely as China expands its military, local leaders said.
Marine Corps Air Station-Beaufort is slated to receive 88 F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, including three combat squadrons and two training squadrons. The first jets could arrive in 2014. Groundbreaking ceremonies earlier this month kicked off construction projects related to the new stealth jets’ arrival.
“This is a strategic day for this base and for our nation. I’m really proud of Beaufort …. The people of Beaufort deserve to be very proud. You earned this, you won this,” Maj. Gen. Jon Davis, Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Air Wing, said at the groundbreaking.
“The reason we are buying this airplane is to ensure that young riflemen have the protection to do the job. This airplane is going to save lives and protect our nation,” he said. Like all Marine Corps aircraft, the F-35B is designed to provide close air support to troops on the ground.
His comments came amid reports that China continues its push into weapons technologies where the United States traditionally has led, including stealth fighters such as the F-35 and large aircraft carriers.
“The pace and scope of China’s sustained military investment have allowed China to pursue capabilities that we believe are potentially destabilizing to regional military balances, increase the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation, and may contribute to regional tensions and anxieties,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Michael Schiffer said recently.
“It is critical to our nation’s security that the F-35 program continues on schedule, and that includes the construction work here at MCAS-Beaufort,” said Lt. Gen. Garry Parks, USMC (Ret.), chairman of the Beaufort County Military Enhancement Committee.
“While we certainly need the injection of construction jobs associated with the $350-plus million to prepare for the Joint Strike Fighters, what we’re really looking at is our nation’s ability to defend itself and its interests globally, now and into the future,” Parks said.

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