The air station encompasses 6,900 acres (28 km²). It is also associated with a large air-to-air combat area off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia as well as a 5,200 acre (21 km²) air-to-ground combat and bombing range in McIntosh County, Georgia. Also attached to the base is the housing complex of Laurel Bay, just 3 miles (5 km) from the station, that provides family housing for area servicemembers.
Formerly home to USMC F-8 Crusader and F-4 Phantom II operations, MCAS Beaufort currently hosts all active duty USMC F/A-18 air operations on the East Coast, said aircraft and squadrons being assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 31 (MAG-31). The mission of MCAS Beaufort is to provide support as an operational base for MAG-31 and its associated squadrons, Marine Corps support units and tenant Navy strike fighter squadrons. The mission of the Marine Aircraft Group (MAG-31) is to conduct anti-air-warfare and offensive air support operations in support of Fleet Marine Forces from advanced bases, expeditionary airfields, or aircraft carriers and conduct such other air operations as may be directed. An additional Navy F/A-18 strike fighter squadron under the claimancy of Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic at NAS Oceana, Virginia is also homeported at MCAS Beaufort. The population of the on-base "city" includes nearly 4,000 active-duty servicemembers and more than 700 civilian workers.
As is the case with many air bases, MCAS Beaufort hosts a bi-annual air show open to the public, which in April 2007, was the site of a fatal crash involving an aircraft from the Blue Angels demonstration team.
MCAS Beaufort's nickname is "Fightertown East". MCAS Miramar in San Diego, California is the more commonly known "Fightertown", also called "Fightertown USA", the latter having acquired the nickname when it was under Navy control as NAS Miramar.
The 1979 film The Great Santini, based upon a novel written by Pat Conroy which centered on MCAS Beaufort in the early 1960s, was filmed on base and in the local area.