Oceana begins efforts to replace all legacy Hornets

By Lance M. Bacon, Staff writer

The Navy wants to replace all legacy F/A-18C/D Hornets with F/A-18E/F Super Hornets at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia.

Officials on Sept. 10 announced plans to evaluate potential environmental impacts as the next steps toward increasing the Super Hornet footprint at Oceana. Comprehensive analysis will be given to the noise impact there as well as Field Carrier Landing Practice operations at Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Fentress in Chesapeake, Virginia.

Cost associated with age is the issue for the six strike fighter squadrons and Fleet Replacement Squadron that still fly legacy Hornets out of Oceana. Roughly 90 percent are beyond the 6,000 flight hours for which the airframe was engineered, and many have passed 8,000 hours. At least 150 aircraft Navy-wide are expected to hit 10,000 flight hours in the coming decade. These aging warhorses are forced to remain in rotation because the Navy’s F-35C is about eight years behind. An intensive maintenance overhaul package is lengthening the lives of legacy Hornets by as much as 25 percent, but keeping these birds airborne is costly (the Navy will spend $56 million on the F/A-18A-D SLEP in fiscal 2015).

The proposed one-to-one transition to Super Hornets “would provide newer, more capable and more reliable aircraft,” officials said in a press release. The proposed transition is slated to begin no earlier than 2018 and be complete by 2028. The change would require only minor modifications to aircraft auxiliary power utilities in hangars and installation of Super Hornet-compatible electrical distribution on the flight line.

Base officials will host two public hearings in which comments and concerns can be voiced. The first will be held from 5-8 p.m. on Sept. 29 at the Columbian Club in Virginia Beach. The second will be from 5-8 p.m. on Sept. 30 at Centerville Baptist Church in Chesapeake.

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