The Civil Aeronautics Authority established Naval Air Station Beaufort on June 15, 1943. The facility was the home base for advanced training of anti-submarine patrols operating along the United States' Southeastern seaboard during World War II. Deactivated in 1946, the facility was reactivated as Marine Corps Auxiliary Airfield in 1955 and on March 1, 1960, the facility was redesignated Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort (MCAS Beaufort). On September 19, 1975, the airfield was named Merritt Field in honor of Ridge Springs, SC native Major General Lewie G. Merritt. The main portion of MCAS Beaufort remains the 3.9 million square yards of runways and taxiways of Merritt Field. The airfield has played a key role in national and worldwide training exercises and operations.
MCAS Beaufort includes three components: a 6,949-acre main site with two runways, the 971-acre Laurel Bay Family Housing area, both within the boundaries of the City of Beaufort, and the 33,834-acre Townsend Bombing Range, an air-to-ground bombing range located in Georgia, which allows Fightertown pilots to train for air-ground combat.
Nicknamed “Fightertown East,” MCAS Beaufort is the home of the Marine Corps’ Atlantic Coast fixed-wing, fighter-attack aircraft assets. Marine Aircraft Group 31 (MAG-31) is part of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) headquartered at MCAS Cherry Point, N.C. and is currently comprised of four F/A-18 Hornet Squadrons, two F-35B Lightning II training squadrons, an aviation logistics squadron, and a wing support detachment. The Hornet squadrons are VMFA-115, '312, as well as VMFA(AW)-224 and '533. MCAS Beaufort is home to two F-35B training squadrons: VMFAT-501, The Warlords, and VMFAT-502, The Flying Nightmares. Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31 (MALS-31) which provides aviation logistics support, guidance, planning and direction to MAG-31 squadrons. Marine Wing Support Detachment 273 (MWSD-273) provides aviation ground support to enable a MAG and supporting elements of the Marine Air Control Group (MACG) to conduct expeditionary operations.
Other major units aboard MCAS Beaufort include Marine Air Control Squadron 2 (MACS-2) Detachment A, Combat Logistics Company 23 (CLC-23) and Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron (H&HS). MACS-2 is capable of establishing a fully functioning expeditionary airfield through aerial surveillance. CLC-23 is under the command of 2nd Marine Logistics Group headquartered at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and supports the Air Station with communications, supply, dental and medical personnel. H&HS provides service support such as firefighting, military police and public affairs support to all units aboard the installation.
MCAS Beaufort service members, their families and civilian employees number nearly 13,000 and have long been an integral part of the Lowcountry community. They are proud to call the greater Beaufort area home.