The US Navy plans to modify 45 more Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets in the next two years to increase the aircraft’s service life and capabilities, the US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) announced on 27 March.

The potential contract will cover modifications to up to 15 aircraft in fiscal year 2019 and a maximum of 30 aircraft in FY2020, NAVAIR says. The modifications are designed to extend the fighter’s airframe life from 6,000-9,000h, adding up to 10 years of service.

Boeing will also convert existing Block II Super Hornets to a new Block III configuration starting in the early 2020s. This conversion will include adding an enhanced network capability, a longer range thanks to internal conformal fuel tanks, an advanced cockpit system, reduced radar signature and an enhanced communication system. Such updates are designed to keep the type effective in combat until at least into the early 2030s.

Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet. US Navy image

US Navy

Boeing was on 28 February contracted to perform work on an initial four aircraft by April 2020, under a contract valued at $73.2 million. The award to modify 45 additional aircraft was an expected follow-on, and is part of an upgrade programme expected to last a decade.

Boeing plans to modify between eight and 12 aircraft at its St Louis, Missouri site this year, before opening a second modification line in San Antonio, Texas, in 2019.

Flight Fleets Analyzer shows the USN has an active fleet of 541 F/A-18E/Fs. In addition to modifying its existing fleet, the service is buying 24 new Super Hornets for a sum of $1.8 billion in FY2018.