A new chapter in Marine Corps aviation operations began at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on July 7th with the opening of a new F-35B hanger facility. Colonel Karl Arbogast, the MCAS Beaufort commanding officer framed the new facility as a step forward in modernization for both the installation and the Marine Corps’ F-35 program. At the ribbon cutting he stated, “The bottom line is that we are innovating, we are building, and we are protecting these significant investments to ensure the sound of freedom is here to stay in the Low Country”.
‘Significant’ is certainly the correct term to describe the new facility. The hanger itself is 42,000 square feet; large enough to accommodate nine F-35Bs. Also included on the hanger site is a newly built 103,000 square-foot administration building big enough to accommodate up to 450 Marines and civilian personnel. Supporting the major buildings are multiple other structures including a facility to fit pilot flight equipment, an operational support facility, a three-story parking facility, twenty-five sunshades, an expansion of the visiting aircraft line, and two wide body aircraft refueling stations. The total cost of the hanger facility project was $79 million.
The new hanger facility represents the intent of the Navy and Marine Corps to enable the missions of both MCAS Beaufort and its tenant unit responsible for F-35B training, Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMAFT-501). VMAFT-501 is the Fleet Replacement Squadron for the F-35B airframe and serves as the training hub for all Marine F-35B pilots as well as the host for international pilot training on the F-35B. This training mission is currently projected to continue through 2067 as the Department of Defense continues to field the technologically advanced F-35B platform and replace other currently used aircraft. With the new facility projected to significantly increase both pilot training capabilities and ground support functions, VMAFT-501 will be postured to continue its legacy of success as a training formation.
As big as the new hanger facility is, it is not the only significant initiative planned at MCAS Beaufort. Construction of a $150 million medical clinic on MCAS Beaufort is currently on track to begin in 2027 with the aim of eventually replacing some of the critical functions of Naval Hospital Beaufort. These major projects continue to benefit both the civilian communities in the Beaufort Region and the Department of Defense. As the motto of MCAS Beaufort states, “The Noise You Hear is the Sound of Freedom.” With the strong ties between region and the military, Beaufort area residents can look forward to hearing the sound of freedom for many decades to come.