Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort officials will host a public meeting Tuesday to answer questions about its current operations and discuss what the future may hold for the base.
The meeting, to be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the cafeteria at Beaufort High School, is intended to help Beaufort-area residents better understand what happens behind the air station's gates, said Lt. Sharon Hyland, base spokeswoman.
"(The meeting) is meant to familiarize the local community with what we do and why we do it," Hyland said. "The most common question we receive from the community is about noise and our training hours. It is very important for local residents to understand what the Marine Corps does and the role that Beaufort's squadrons play in the security of our nation."
Hyland said base officials also will field questions about the current Air Installation Compatible Use Zone, which designates areas subject to high noise and potential crashes around the air station and influences the types of developments that can be allowed there.
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The AICUZ -- as well as the air station's current mission - soon will change as the air station prepares to welcome the Marine Corps' version of the Joint Strike Fighter, also known as the F-35B.
The air station's buffer zone is based on noise from the F-18 Hornet, but the zone has not been established for the F-35, which is scheduled to replace the F-18 in 2013 or 2014, according to Navy officials.
Construction to prepare the base for the new jet's arrival is already under way, including work on a $70 million hangar and training facility that began in September.
That project is part of $351.8 million in infrastructure improvements needed to house three new active-duty F-35B squadrons and two pilot-training squadrons the Navy says will call Beaufort home.
Hyland said officials will be able to answer some questions about the F-35B's arrival at the meeting, but the most definitive source of information on its impact locally is the final draft of a Navy report published last year.
Copies of the report are available at branches of the Beaufort County Library and on the air station's website, Hyland said.
Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/OnBaseBeaufort.