The U.S. Navy's plans to extend the service life of its F/A-18 aircraft come as the force continues to meet delays on procuring their variant of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II multirole fighter. Photo by the U.S. Navy.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command plans to give a service life extension program contract to Boeing for its fleet of F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft.
If the plan moves forward, Boeing will provide engineering, design, verification and validation services to the aircraft, with a focus on extending the service life of the plane's aft fuselage past its current 6,000-hour flight requirement.
"Only one responsible source and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements," NAVAIR's notice posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website read.
Boeing is currently the only designer, developer, manufacturer and integrator for the F/A-18 aircraft, and will be the only contractor used to perform the modifications if a contract is given.
The Navy's plan to keep the fighter in service longer than initially planned comes in response to delays in the F-35 program. The Lockheed Martin F-35C, the variant made for the Navy, is expected to achieve initial operating capability in 2019, two years after the current 6,000-hour service lives for the F/A-18 are set to expire.
The Boeing-made Super Hornet is a twin-engine multirole fighter used by both the United States and Australia, and is a follow-up to the McDonnel Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. The first operational Super Hornet squadron was formed in June 2001, and was later equipped with a modernized AESA radar in 2007.
In service, the aircraft is used in either a fighter mode or attack mode. In fighter mode, the Super Hornet is used as an escort and for defending the fleet. In attack mode, it can be used for provide close and deep air support for deployed forces.
The aircraft is armed with a M61A1/A2 Vulcan 20mm cannon in addition to general purpose rockets, bombs and mines.