The US Navy’s Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) has accepted delivery of an F-35 airframe from Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort in South Carolina.

The frame was transported by barge to FRCE facilities aboard MCAS Cherry Point, the United States Marine Corps (USMC) airfield in North Carolina.

Working alongside the F-35 Joint Program Office, FRCE received approval to accept the ‘stripped down airframe’ for use in maintenance training and engineering testing.

FRCE F-35 Joint Program Office site lead Matt Crisp said: “As a depot maintenance trainer, the airframe will allow new employees an opportunity to test their skills on the proper maintenance and repair processes used on F-35 before being required to do it on a fleet aircraft.

“Our sustainment engineering efforts include the ability to prototype modifications and repairs, test new and improve existing support equipment, test new processes and materials, and support other efforts to investigate opportunities for sustainment cost and maintainability improvements.”

According to US Navy, the airframe will allow for the development of enhanced tooling, maintenance procedures, and other sustainment practices.

Crisp added: “The decision to move the airframe with a barge was largely due to the expected impacts of traffic along the route from Beaufort to Cherry Point.

“We’re excited to have this airframe available because it allows us to train our workforce and test new engineering sustainment initiatives without impacting a fleet aircraft. It will only make us better prepared to support fleet readiness.”

FRCE is the largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider in North Carolina with over 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers.

In January, FRCE delivered the last T58-GE-400B engine for the current version of the presidential helicopter, ‘VH-3D Sea King’.