An F-35 squadron that one day will call Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort home welcomed three new jets this month as work to prepare the local base for the new fighter jet continues.
The new planes were flown May 5 from a naval base in Fort Worth, Texas, to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, where they will be used by the Marine Attack Training Squadron 501, a Florida-based unit that will relocate to Beaufort in 2014, according to air station spokeswoman Lt. Sharon Hyland.
Another jet was flown to the Florida base Tuesday, according to a spokeswoman for Lockheed-Martin, the defense contractor building the F-35.
After this recent delivery and the arrival of three jets earlier this year, the unit now has six F-35Bs, the model built specifically for the Marine Corps.
The new fighter jet will eventually replace all of the F-18 Hornets now flown at MCAS Beaufort as part of a plan to house three active-duty JSF squadrons and two training squadrons at the air station.
The jets' arrival in Florida comes as Navy officials begin meeting with Ohio contractors tapped in March to build vertical landing pads at MCAS Beaufort, where pilots will practice using the new fighter jet's vertical take-off and landing capabilities.
Head Inc. of Columbus, Ohio, was selected from among 13 defense contractors to build the pads, which will be made partly of advanced, high-temperature concrete, said Sue Brink, spokeswoman for Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast in Jacksonville, Fla.
Brink said Head will design the pads and has already begun site work. The project is expected to be completed in August 2013, she said.
The pads' construction is only one phase in a $351.8 million makeover the air station must undergo over the next five years to house the new fighter jet.
Construction continues on a $70 million hangar and training facility that Florida contractor Hensel Phelps began in September.
The project is expected to be completed in 2013, Navy officials said.
The new jets are scheduled to arrive in 2013 or 2014.