First Jet to Undergo Service Life Modification Returns to U.S. Navy
(Source: US Naval Air Systems Command; issued Feb 06, 2020)
Delays, sub-standard performance and excessive costs of the Lockheed F-35C carrier variant have pushed the US Navy to upgrade its Boeing F-18E fighters, but today’s Service Life Modification is a preparatory step for the Block III upgrade to follow. (Boeing photo)
PATUXENT RIVER, Md. --- The first Service Life Modification (SLM) F/A-18E/F Super Hornet rolled off the production line in St. Louis, marking a major milestone for the U.S. Navy. After undergoing Department of Defense operational readiness review inspections, the jet was released to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 on Jan. 21, fully mission capable, and successfully completed a functional flight check within just three business days of arrival.

“In light of recently achieving our mission capability goal, this SLM jet delivery comes at the perfect time where the focus has now shifted to sustaining our aircraft,” said Capt. Jason Denney, F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office Manager (PMA-265).

The first SLM jet underwent various inspections, modifications and repairs before being restored to mission capable status. These modifications extended the service life for this jet to 7,500 flight hours. Currently, 15 aircraft have been inducted into SLM with another two inductions scheduled in the month of February. Prior to undergoing SLM, Super Hornets’ service life is 6,000 flight hours.

“The Super Hornet is and will continue to be the backbone of the U.S. Navy carrier air wing for decades to come,” said SLM Integrated Product Team (IPT) Lead Sarah Banagan. “This first SLM jet delivery is a critical milestone paving the way for enhanced aviation readiness in support of the Naval Defense Strategy (NDS) by delivering ready, relevant and reliable FA-18 E/F Super Hornet aircraft to the warfighter.”

Beginning in December 2022, SLM kits will reach full maturity, extending the Block II Super Hornet’s service life to 10,000 flight hours and incorporating Block III capabilities. These include enhanced network capability, reduced radar cross-signature, and an enhanced communication system. Incorporation of the full kits increases the lethality, longevity and interoperability of the Super Hornet platform, Banagan explained.

SLM was initiated in 2018 and is anticipated to continue for the next 20-plus years, with the schedule of inductions increasing in the next few years until the steady induction rate of 40 aircraft per year is reached. Banagan said that SLM was designed with a “learn as you go approach,” with throughput and efficiency expected to improve. The current turnaround time of 18 months, from induction to return, is expected to be reduced to 12 months by fiscal year 2023.

As SLM ramps up over the next two years, the mission capable rates will hold steady with delivery on new Block III aircraft from the production line. In March 2019, the Navy awarded Boeing a multi-year contract to build 78 new F/A-18E/F Block III Super Hornets fit to fly for 10,000 service hours, which provides the fleet with the latest advances while SLM continues to mature

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Boeing Delivers the First F/A-18 Service Life Modification Jet to U.S. Navy
(Source: Boeing Co.; issued Feb. 6, 2020)
ARLINGTON, Va. --- Boeing has given an F/A-18 a new lease on life after delivering the first Super Hornet under the Service Life Modification program to the U.S. Navy. The second SLM jet will deliver by the end of the month, and Boeing will deliver the third F/A-18 in April.

The initial Super Hornets delivered from the program 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 III capabilities.

“SLM is going to provide a critical resource for the Navy to re-capitalize on long-serving aircraft to return them to the fleet in a near new condition,” said Capt. Stephen May, PMA-265 co-lead for E/F/G Air Vehicles. “It will reduce burden on our maintainers, our supply system and our depot level assets within the enterprise.”

There are now 15 Super Hornets in the SLM program on production lines in St. Louis and San Antonio. It takes 18 months to complete modifications on an F/A-18, although that time will be driven down to one year as the program progresses. Boeing will deliver five more Super Hornets this year.

The Block III conversion will include enhanced network capability, conformal fuel tanks, an advanced cockpit system, signature improvements and an enhanced communication system. The updates are expected to keep the F/A-18 in active service for decades to come.

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