Marine Corps official: F 35's still on track for Cherry Point

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The future of Cherry Point, the largest employer in the state east of Interstate 95, became a little more clear after a visit to the base and the town of Havelock Tuesday by the Deputy Commandant of Marine Corps Aviation.

Lt. General Jon Davis spoke to dozens of community leaders from around eastern Carolina about the future of Cherry Point and how the Marine Corps plan to update and expand its aviation fleet affects the base.

The latest Marine Corps aviation plan calls for a $1.3 billion investment in various Cherry Point projects over the next 12 years.

The event was hosted by "Allies for Cherry Point's Tomorrow."

Group members, who have expressed concern over Cherry Point's sustainability, say they feel more confident about the base's future after speaking with the Commandant, who said the plan to have the base as the largest F-35 fleet in the east is still on track.

Lt. General Davis says, "It's a really important base to the United States Marine Corps not only for the F-35 and our C-130's, but also our unmanned systems as well as our command and control."

Havelock Mayor Will Lewis says, "A lot of people like to talk about the F-35's coming here last, but they are coming in a little bit earlier than they were and we're going to be fighting hard to get them here sooner, but there's a lot of other aspects for the future he talked about with CH-53's and also UAS platforms, unmanned aerial systems, and that's the future of national security and the future of Cherry Point."

The base is expected to have 94 F-35's when the entire fleet arrives. Depending on when hangars and other necessary infrastructures get built the fleet could start coming between 2018-2021.