Beaufort News

Contractor picked to build JSF training facility at MCAS

A Florida contractor was tapped by the Navy this week to begin improvements at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort as the base prepares for the arrival of the Joint Strike Fighter.

The Orlando office of Hensel Phelps Construction Co. won a $70.3 million contract to build a new JSF training facility and training hangar at the air station, said Sue Brink, a spokeswoman for Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast in Jacksonville.

The work also includes a new simulator facility, training classrooms, conference rooms and administrative offices, Brink said.

The project is expected to begin next month and be finished by September 2013, she said.

The contract award was postponed in March while Congress haggled over the federal budget and nearly shutdown the federal government, according to command officials.

Col. Brian Murtha, the air station's commanding officer, said the project will bring much-needed improvement to the flight line.

"MCAS Beaufort's existing hangars are reaching the end of useful life at 50 years old and must be replaced to meet the changing mission of the air station," Murtha said in a statement. "This construction project moves MCAS Beaufort one step closer to receiving the Joint Strike Fighter. ... This contract award not only represents the future of Marine Corps aviation, but also the future of the Marine Corps in Beaufort."

The $70 million project is the start of a $351.8 million makeover the air station will undergo over the next five years to house the JSF, which will replace the F-18 Hornets now flown at the base.

In December, the Navy announced its decision to base three new active-duty JSF squadrons and two pilot-training squadrons -- 88 jets total -- at the air station.

The air station was originally slated to begin receiving the aircraft in 2014 or 2015 but technical problems with the Marine Corps' variant of the jet are expected to delay its arrival by at least two years.