Beaufort News

Navy says more contracts coming to prepare air station for new jets

The Navy may have awarded the first contract for construction work related to the arrival of the Joint Strike Fighter at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort this week, but officials say it won't be the last.

To prepare for the jet's arrival in 2014, the air station will undergo a $351.8 million makeover over the next five years that got its informal start last week when Navy officials tapped Hensel Phelps Construction of Orlando, Fla., to build a $70 million training facility and training hangar.

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

Sue Brink, a spokeswoman for Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast, said there is no definitive timetable for the release of additional construction contracts related to the jet's arrival in Beaufort.

"Every installation has a listing of the projects they have submitted through the military construction process for approval," Brink said. "Until approved and funded, it is not a project."

Brink said the Navy does expect to begin soliciting bids later this year or early next year for a $21 million project to build a vertical landing pad at the air station.

The pad would be used by air station pilots to practice the new jet's vertical take-off and landing capabilities.

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 new jets will replace the F-18 Hornets now flown at the air station.

Construction at the base related to the jet's arrival is expected to create more than 4,000 temporary construction jobs over five years, according to a Navy report released last year.

Brink encouraged area workers or businesses interested in working on the projects to keep tabs on which companies are awarded the construction projects.

"As other projects are approved they will be released to the public through (the government's procurement website)," Brink said. "This is also where subcontractors can keep an eye out for what is coming up and who is awarded a contract. Naval Facilities Engineering Command does not have any input as to who the prime contractor hires as subs. They are responsible for hiring their own subcontractors."