At a recent discussion on Navy and Marine Corps aviation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Naval Air Force commander, highlighted a Super Hornet Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) as part of the solution for the Navy’s shortfall of F/A-18 E/Fs in the mid-2020s.
“I think we’ve got a pretty good plan right now to move forward and avoid a significant impact to our strike fighter inventory as those airplanes come out of service to get repaired and get back into service,” Shoemaker says of upgrading F/A-18s. “It’s not an inconsequential challenge we have ahead of us.”
Boeing is having ongoing dialogue with U.S. Navy officials to offer a holistic solution to help solve their inventory management issues. As described in an article from National Defense, the company is working to help accelerate the SLEP program to help provide continual maintenance and extend the life of the Super Hornet fleet. The Navy plans to extend the Super Hornet’s life from its 6,000 hour design limit to 9,000 hours but still faces significant strike fighter inventory issues even with this life extension.
This spring, the Chief of Naval Operations testified before Congress that the Navy was facing a Super Hornet shortfall of two to three squadrons, or 24 – 36 aircraft. The Navy requested 12 Super Hornets as a top unfunded priority this year.
With the unmatched capability of the carrier strike group and its embarked air wing, funding the 12 aircraft in fiscal year 2016 is critical to not only address the Navy’s near-term needs, but also to keep the door open so Boeing can provide an integrated solution to be sure the Navy has enough Super Hornets – the workhorse of our Nation’s carrier fleet – not only now but through 2040.