The US Navy (USN) has launched a service life extension programme (SLEP) for its fleet of Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet combat aircraft, the Department of Defense (DoD) disclosed on 28 February.
The Naval Air Systems Command has awarded Boeing a USD73.2 million contract to increase the airframe hours of the first four Super Hornets, from 6,000 to 9,000. The work will continue through to April 2020.
Jane’s first reported in February 2016 that the USN was looking to SLEP its Super Hornets, as the earliest aircraft to have been delivered to the service in the late 1990s were reaching or had already reached the end of their current service lives.
Beyond these initial four aircraft the navy has not said how many aircraft will go through the SLEP process, but it will likely encompass most if not all of the service’s 568 Super Hornet programme-of-record (with more being requested). Also, it is not clear if the programme will be extended to the USN’s 160 EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft that are to be delivered, or if international Super Hornet and Growler operator Australia is to be included. Any future aircraft (including those expected for Kuwait) will likely be built to the SLEP standard.
This Super Hornet SLEP is being driven by an operational tempo over the last almost two decades that could not have been envisioned when the Super Hornet entered service in 1999, and by delays to the introduction into service of the carrier variant Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft.
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