The US Marine Corps is receiving 30 previously retired Boeing F/A-18C Hornets in a new “C+” configuration.
A capability gap created by the late arrival of the Lockheed Martin F-35B prompted the USMC to bring the aircraft out of storage – they had been retired to the "boneyard" at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona – and contract Boeing to modify two squadrons-worth of classic Hornets.
Two examples have been delivered so far – which are now on operations – with six more at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida, ready to be modified, and another five on their way to the site, Bill Maxwell, senior manager for F/A-18 modifications at Cecil Field, told media on 10 June.
The contract was awarded in 2014, and involves the Hornets being stripped down and modified to include a new avionics suite and a Raytheon mechanical radar.
“Even though these aircraft have been around and proven themselves in operations, you can’t beat the modern avionics suite,” says Maxwell.
The aircraft had accumulated some 6,000 flight hours before being retired; the C+ modifications will extend service life by a further 2,000h. The first example was delivered to the USMC in October 2015, followed by the second in April 2016.
Modifications at Cecil take some 12 months, and their arrival helps bridge a capability gap as the F-35B's introduction “slides to the right”, Maxwell says.
Boeing could offer similar services to international customers waiting for the arrival of the F-35, he says.
Flightglobal’s Fleets Analyzer database shows the USMC as operating 76 F/A-18Cs.