The US Navy intends to launch a service life extension programme (SLEP) for its fleet of Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet combat aircraft, a notice posted on the Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) website reveals.
The notice, which was originally published by the The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) on 19 January and updated on 1 February, is for Boeing to undertake a SLEP of the F/A-18E/F aft fuselage to extend the life of the aircraft upwards from the current 6,000 hours.
NAVAIR revealed no details pertaining to the number of aircraft involved, the extent of the increase in the service life of the aircraft, timelines, or contract values. Neither did the notification say whether the effort would be extended to international operators, which are currently limited to Australia but expected to include Kuwait shortly.
The US Navy fields approximately 550 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, the first of which entered service in the late 1990s. The earliest aircraft to be delivered are expected to reach the end of their current 6,000-hour service lives in about 2017, which is two years ahead of the planned declaration of initial operating capability for the carrier variant Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft.
Delays to the F-35C have already prompted the US Navy to execute a SLEP for 150 of its more than 600 legacy F/A-18 Hornet fleet (including US Marine Corps [USMC] assets). The goal of this particular SLEP is to increase the service life of the 1980s-vintage jets out to 10,000 hours, with the aim of keeping them in operational service until 2035. Other enhancements being considered for the legacy Hornets include a new active electronically scanned array (AESA) integrating the Link 16 datalink, colour screens in the cockpit and navigation upgrades with a moving map display, new Naval Aircrew Common Ejector Seats, and the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System.