MCAS hosts F-35B flyover at Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

MCAS F-35B flyover in Beaufort

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BEAUFORT, SC (WTOC) -

The F-35B aircraft has been the buzzword around Beaufort's Marine Corps Air Station for years.

On Tuesday, military and civilian leaders came one step closer to seeing it become a reality.

After campaigning for many years to bring the F-35B to Beaufort, the public got their first chance to see it fly in the sky.

These F-35B Lightning 2 jets will play a huge role in shaping Beaufort's future.

"To be able to see it flying over Beaufort, it's just a dream come true," said Blakely Williams, president and CEO, Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce led the campaign to bring the fighter jets here.

Beaufort is set to receive five Joint Strike Fighter squadrons and be the only training ground for F-35B pilots.

"We're looking at a $1.46 billion economic impact right now. We expect to see those numbers grow and grow," said Williams.

"An absolute marvel in terms of technical capacity and I think it's a real compliment to the Lowcountry that they'd choose to station these planes here given the long level of base support that you see at the local level," said U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford.

"Welcome it is really exciting to be here today," said Robert Hedelund, Commanding General of the Second Marine Aircraft Wing.

The F-35B's short takeoff (and) vertical landing, or STOVL, sets it apart from any other aircraft worldwide.

"STOVL means this aircraft will be able to operate not only from shipping, more amphibious ships and other flat top ships if you will, but also from very short runways, it opens up the operational window of what that aircraft can operate from and land to," said Hedelund.

Add to that a cutting-edge cockpit.

"This airplane is dramatically different from the inside out, we've got some really nice digital touch screen displays. If you've got an iPad at home, you can fly one of these airplanes," said Lt. Col. David Berke, Commander Officer of VMFAT-501 Squadron.

The F-35B is currently stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Plans are to bring it to Beaufort by next summer.

The VMFAT-501 training squadron will be the first unit responsible for flying the F-35B in Beaufort.

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