The Department of the Navy (DON) intends to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed basing and operation of 13 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) F-35B squadrons at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort, in Beaufort, South Carolina and MCAS Cherry Point in Havelock, North Carolina.
The Marine Corps variant of the JSF, the F-35B, is a short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL), multi-role fighter aircraft whose primary emphasis is air-to-ground combat. The aircraft is designed to replace existing fleets of F-18 A/C/D Hornets (strike fighter), AV-8B Harriers (attack), and the EA-6B Prowler (electronic warfare) aircraft.
The F-35B East Coast basing proposal would take approximately 11 years to implement and would begin in 2012. The proposal would base up to 216 aircraft (i.e., 10 active-duty and 1 reserve squadrons of up to 16 aircraft each and 2 Pilot Training Center (PTC) squadrons at 20 aircraft each) at MCAS Beaufort and MCAS Cherry Point. Facility construction and modifications would occur prior to and continue throughout F-35B squadron arrivals; the F-35B would operate within existing airspace and at training ranges currently used by Marine Corps Hornet, Harrier, and Prowler aircraft.