The first F/A-18F Super Hornet scheduled to undergo service life modification arrived at Boeing’s St. Louis, Missouri facilities on 5 April.

The two-seat fighter came from VFA-106, a Super Hornet fleet replacement squadron stationed at NAS Oceana, Virginia. The jet had approximately 6,000 flight hours on it.

Boeing plans to extend the service life of the US Navy’s Super Hornet fleet by replacing components and strengthening the aircraft structure though new parts or reinforcements.

F/A-18E/F Super Hornets undergoing service life modifications before 2020, approximately less than 100 aircraft, will have their service life extended by 1,500h each, Boeing said. The aircraft’s first visit will extend its total service life life to 7,500h and the second visit will extend its life to 9,000h.

At a later date, presumably once Boeing has improved its modification programme, aircraft will have service life extensions of 3,000h done in one visit, the company said. By extending the fighter’s airframe life 3,000h overall, the US Navy aims to add up to 10 years of service life for the 20-year-old fighter design.

Initial Super Hornets received by Boeing will take about 18 months to be modified, though the company believes it can shorten the period down to 12 months over time. After receiving the first six aircraft at its St. Louis facility, the company plans to evenly split its modification work with a facility in San Antonio, Texas.

In February, Boeing was awarded a contract for $73.2 million to perform work on an initial four aircraft by 2020. And, in March, US Naval Air Systems Command announced plans to modify 45 more Super Hornets over the next two years. Eventually, Boeing said it expects to modify 40 to 50 planes a year, so as to extend the lifespan of all of the Navy’s fleet of more than 500 Super Hornets.