The US Navy (USN) has received back into service the first of its Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet combat aircraft to go through the Service-Life Modification (SLM) process, the company announced on 6 February.
The twin-seat F/A-18F from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 'Gladiators' that was first delivered to the fleet in 2004 was the first of "more than 450" Super Hornets to undergo a comprehensive refurbishment through to 2033, Boeing said.
As noted by Boeing, the initial Super Hornets delivered from the programme will extend the service life from 6,000 to 7,500 flight hours. Future modification plans in the early 2020s will enable the jets to fly 10,000 hours and incorporate the new Block 3 capabilities.
Work on the SLM upgrade for the first particular aircraft commenced at Boeing's St Louis production facility in April 2018. There are now 15 Super Hornets in the SLM programme on production lines in St Louis and San Antonio, Texas, with the second aircraft set to be delivered back to the USN later this month and the third in April.
As previously disclosed in the SLM contract announcement from March 2018, "The contract will include the following in support of comprehensive service life modifications to the Super Hornets to maximise aircraft in-reporting status, and return aircraft to the fleet with increased service life and capability: aircraft inspections and physical verification of fleet usage; warranty and non-warranty modifications; repairs incident to modification; recurring and non-recurring engineering efforts; logistics; project management; parts, kits, [and] associated materials; and data."
The USN has a programme-of-record of 573 Super Hornets. While those aircraft already delivered will be retrofitted to the SLM and Block 3 standard, new aircraft rolling off the line from fiscal year 2022 will be built to this standard.
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