By Joyce Lobeck for the Yuma Sun
Marine Corps Air Station Yuma is bustling with activity as it prepares for the November or December arrival of the first F-35B Joint Strike Fighter jets that will be based here.
The first six projects are nearing completion, and work is starting on three more this year, for a total investment of almost $400 million at MCAS. It’s an investment that also has been a boon to local businesses, from hotels to subcontractors and suppliers.
MCAS Yuma is slated to be home to five F-35 squadrons of 16 planes each, along with an operational test and evaluation squadron of eight aircraft. The first squadron will be VMFA 121, expected by December. The total transition from old aircraft to new aircraft and personnel for the F-35 squadrons is scheduled by 2020.
To be ready, construction of new state-of-the-art hangars and replacement of aging infrastructure are on an aggressive schedule.
“We gave the contractors some ridiculous time frames,” (Lt. Col. Dwight De Jong, project overseer) said.
Projects totaling nearly $200 million were awarded to contractors in June 2011. One hangar is expected to be completed by mid-May and a second by October. A new simulator facility will be completed in June, while a new utility communications facility is scheduled for completion by August and a new maintenance facility by November. The work also includes demolition of older facilities.
Fiscal year 2012 projects total another $160 million. They include two more hangars, with the contract awarded in April and scheduled for completion by spring of 2014.
An auxiliary landing field is to be built on the Barry M. Goldwater Range, to be awarded in late June with anticipated completion by July 2013. The new facility will simulate the deck of an amphibious assault ship where pilots can practice their carrier landings.
Yet another project, to be awarded this fall for scheduled completion in February 2014, would be an additional hangar that hopefully will attract another squadron to MCAS, De Jong said.