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Mon, Aug 15, 2022

Navy’s Fleet Readiness Center Begins E-F Model F/A-18 Extensions

Modifications to Super Hornets Increase Lifetime Limit From 6,000 to 10,000 Hours

The Navy has begun work on extending the lifespan of its more recent model Super Hornets, putting a number of F/A-18s, all E and F variants, into the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) for a Service Life Modification (SLM). 

The move follows the Center’s completion of similar modifications to older legacy fighters, addressing wear and tear from decades of use for A, B, C, and D models. The Service Life Modification has been integral to the continued utility of the model, allowing an airframe to extend its service life beyond the original 6,000 hour limitation. The first iteration of the mod bumped that limit up to 7,500 flight hours, but the newest Super Hornet SLM brings that limit even further, to 10,000 hours. 

The move allows the service to stretch their dollar even further and extract maximum value of each Super Hornet in the service, and program manager Ehren Terbeek of the FRCSW says the facility has the process down pat. Where older legacy fighters may have taken hundreds of hours to modify a high-mileage (metaphorically) F/A-18, the E/F models require less major structural overhaul, resulting in a much shorter return to service. 

“The SLM will involve over 20 direct artisans as well as a team of MRO and Fleet Support Team engineers and other support groups,” said Terbeek. “They have been tasked with a 17-month turn-around time but will work in earnest to complete the project earlier than that.”

“The SLM will be comprised of a series of inspections that can drive repairs, as well as incorporate technical directives and standard dispositions that have been created for the event.” The newest SLM, now in Block III, is a qualitative leap in capability, adding enhanced network integration, conformal fuel tanks, improved avionics, and better comms systems to ready the Super Hornet for decades to come. 

Of course, the aircraft passed over to his unit are well worn veterans in naval service. Terbeek says that each one is a mystery box all its own, just like any other aircraft.

“The most difficult aspect in performing the modification is the unknown of opening up a 6,000 flight-hour aircraft, the known requirements are understood by the team but it is the unpredictability of items outside of the scope of work that are always the most worrisome.” Still, he sounds confident that the Center will be able to get those conversions complete and get those Hornets back in the air. 

FMI: www.navair.navy.mil

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