US Congress is being pressed to withhold approval for multi-year procurement of the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet until solutions are found to noise and vibration problems which can damage weapons carried by the fighter. The US Navy plans to sign a cost-saving five-year contract for 222 aircraft later this month.

The US General Accounting Office (GAO) recommends that Congress directs the navy to defer signing the contract until the problems are corrected. The US Department of Defense (DoD) says noise and vibration are being addressed and the problems are encountered with other tactical aircraft. "The F/A-18E/F is ready for full-rate production," the DoD says in its rebuttal of the GAO report.

Existence of a severe underwing noise and vibration environment has been known since 1997, and several stores have experienced cracking of fins and support structure. As a result, the GAO says, during operational evaluation of the F/A-18E/F last year, a 50h service life limit was imposed on the AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missile, compared with 450h on the current F/A-18C/D. More frequent inspections for damage were also required.

The DoD says that, despite this deficiency, independent testers still found the F/A-18E/F to be operationally effective and suitable and ready for fleet introduction. The DoD says a panel of independent experts has concluded that no wing redesign is required. Instead, the navy may strengthen the weapons.

• The US Navy has completed the first flight release of the Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) from the Super Hornet as it begins clearing the latest US smart weapons on the aircraft.

Source: Flight International