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Will you be able to hear Beaufort air station's new fighter jets?

BEAUFORT -- The military's newest fighter jet islouder than some of the aging planes it will replace, prompting some military communities to raise a racket about the noise.

However, the roar of the new fighter should cause few problems in Beaufort because the Marine Corps' variant of the Joint Strike Fighter is not louder than the F-18 Hornets already flying overhead, according to the program's executive officer.

The noise caused by the Joint Strike Fighter, also known as the F-35 Lightning II, is expected to be one of several topics discussed Tuesday with residents at a public meeting from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn on Boundary Street in Beaufort. The meeting is required by federal law as MCAS Beaufort drafts an environmental-impact statement on proposed JSF squadrons at the air station.

The JSF is the first fighter jet purchased by the Marine Corps in more than a decade and ultimately will replace all of the F-18s being used by the Navy and Marine Corps, the average age of which is about 18 years. According to a notice published in the Federal Register, MCAS Beaufort is expected to receive some combination of 13 JSF squadrons, which includes 10 operational squadrons, two pilot training squadrons and one reserve squadron. The squadrons will be divided between Beaufort and MCAS Cherry Point in North Carolina.

The F-35A, a conventional take-off and landing version of the jet being built for the Air Force, creates between 83 decibels and 90 decibels of noise, according an Air Force environmental study released in October.

Results from noise tests done on the F-35B in October -- the short take-off, vertical-landing version of the jet being designed by defense contractor Lockheed Martin specifically for the Marine Corps -- have yet to be released, according to a company spokesman.

Though the noise of the F-35 has been the subject of controversy at Eglin Air Force Base near Fort Walton Beach, Fla., a base expected to house the Defense Department's joint F-35 pilot and maintenance school, Beaufort-area residents might not find the plane's noise nearly as intrusive.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Davis, the JSF program's executive officer, told a group at the Brookings Institute in Washington last week that although the F-35 was twice as loud as the F-15 and F-16 fighters at Eglin, the new jets will not be louder than the F-18 Hornets flown at MCAS Beaufort.

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