By Heather Wilburn, Fleet Readiness Center East
CHERRY POINT — Fleet Readiness Center East hosted a visit Tuesday from the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy office responsible for the construction and maintenance of installations.
Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment James Balocki visited FRC East as part of a wider tour of Marine Corps Installations East facilities, including Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Station New River and MCAS Cherry Point.
Mr. Balocki toured the commands with a focus on facilities, environmental protection and restoration, and natural and cultural resources and conservation.
At FRC East, the tour centered on the depot’s modernization efforts in support of the Fleet Readiness Center Infrastructure Optimization Plan, a 10-year plan to revitalize naval aviation infrastructure, reset critical facilities and equipment and streamline output.
“It’s amazing to see the innovation and creative solutions demonstrated by the men and women here at FRC East,” Mr. Balocki said. “The team contributes immensely to naval aviation readiness through their efforts. I clearly see the need to modernize infrastructure and depot facilities to streamline our production and increase our warfighting capability across the fleet.”
FRC East Commanding Officer Col. Thomas Atkinson hosted Mr. Balocki and MCAS Cherry Point Commanding Officer Col. Mikel Huber for a briefing outlining FRC East operations as a whole, facilities constraints and potential solutions before departing on a tour focused on the future. Stops included the F-35 Lightning II modification line, the F-35 laser shock peening facility and the sites of future facilities supporting the fifth-generation fighter.
The laser shock peening facility uses laser technology to strengthen the airframe of select aircraft, extending the lifespan, and is one of only two locations in the world that can provide this service on the F-35.
FRC East is scheduled to break ground this fall on new facilities designed to test and process the aircraft’s vertical lift fan – a key feature of the short takeoff-vertical landing feature of the F-35B variant flown by Marine Corps aviators – and support additional F-35 modification workload. Scheduled for completion in early 2023, the vertical lift fan test facility will be the only depot-level maintenance test facility in the world that services the component.
“I’m happy we had this opportunity to demonstrate to Mr. Balocki what we’re currently doing at FRC East in support of the fleet, and also familiarize him with the plan for the depot’s future,” Col. Atkinson said. “The planned facilities represent strategic assets to the fleet and mission readiness, and modernization of existing facilities and processes will reinforce those efforts and continue to move FRC East ahead.”