How does heavy operational use affect the inside of the F/A-18 Super Hornet?
To find out, a team of Boeing engineers and mechanics recently “despliced” two retired U.S. Navy Super Hornets by splitting the jets in half.
This process will enable the team to examine the inside of the aircraft structure for irregularities and validate engineering data. Program officials say the despliced aircraft represent different physical aircraft configurations and varied fleet usage, making them ideal candidates for this purpose.
Lessons learned will help shape the Service Life Modification (SLM) program, an effort to extend the operational service life of U.S. Navy Super Hornets from 6,000 flight hours to 9,000. Boeing and the U.S. Navy agreed to the 10-year SLM plan earlier this year, with the first official contract expected in early 2018. The first jet induction is anticipated shortly thereafter.
By 2023, Boeing will modify approximately 50 F/A-18 aircraft per year. This modification work, combined with new build aircraft, will provide the U.S. Navy with highly capable Super Hornets into the 2040s.