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Hornets need outer-wing 'changes' to support life-extension

08 October 2018
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The USN wants to extend the service-lives of 150 of its 'classic' Hornets, but has discovered that changes to the OWPs need to be made first. Source: US Navy

The US Navy (USN) is seeking a re-design of the outer-wing panels (OWPs) for its Boeing F/A-18A-D 'classic' Hornet fighters to support a service-life extension programme (SLEP).

The service disclosed on 5 October that the current OWPs fitted to the 617 F/A-18A-D Hornets fielded by itself and the US Marine Corps (USMC) are not suitable for the planned aircraft life-extension of 10,000 hours, and that a retrofit is being sought.

"The Naval Air Systems Command, PMA-265 (Program Office for F/A-18A-D Aircraft), is soliciting information […] to successfully retrofit changes for the OWP into F/18A-D aircraft. The purpose of [the solicitation] is to address the hot spot locations found during Structural Life Assessment Program/Service Life Extension Program [SLAP/SLEP] investigation. Engineering analysis during SLAP/SLEP investigation projects asset will not meet the projected 10,000-hour life limit and require a retrofit repair," the solicitation said, adding; "If left as is, potential fatigue damage can ensue, which, if not detected, would lead to possible loss of life, loss of component, or loss of aircraft if in flight. The retrofit repair will improve readiness and increase the F/A-18A-Dʼs ability to reach the targeted flight hour goal."

The USN and USMC currently field 95 F/A-18A, 21 F/A-18B, 370 F/A-18C, and 131 F/A-18D aircraft. Having been upgraded several times since they were introduced in the early 1980s, these legacy Hornets are now being extended beyond their 6,000 flight-hour airframe lives to 10,000 hours to help mitigate delays to the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

Of these 617 platforms, about 150 Hornets of differing designations have been earmarked for the SLEP with the aim of keeping them in operational service until 2035.

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