WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 22 SEAPOWER / MAY 2016
for a specific aircraft that would be manually approved
In the case of the Super Hornet, it will be extended
to 9,000 hours over the entire fleet, instead of just a
portion of it. And, thanks to lessons learned with the
Hornet, it will be easier and less costly to create a SLEP
kit for the F/A-18E/Fs.
The primary drivers on a Hornet’s life are the bootstraps, inner wing panels and some structural components — mainly the center and aft fuselage. The Super
Hornet has similar drivers, but they were designed so
that the aircraft would not have to be torn apart as
much to keep them flying.
The EA-18G Growler, which is based on the Super
Hornet airframe, will have to go through its own
extension program, but since it is an electronic attack
aircraft and not a fighter, it flies at a different and less
“It’s a little bit of a different animal,” Kindley said.
“It’s unusual for the Growler to put on a lot of FLE
[fatigue life expended].”
Dan Gillian, F/A- 18 and EA- 18 program manager at
Boeing, said the company is actively working on the
service life assessment program (SLAP) for the Super
Hornet, the precursor to the SLEP program.
“We’ve been doing that for a number of years, with
a number of years left to go,” Gillian said. “We’re also
working with the Navy to make
sure we have the right facilities
capacity to do a Super Hornet SLEP
program, which will take all Super
Hornets from 6,000 to 9,000 hours
as part of the inventory manage-
The first planes to reach 6,000
hours will get to that limit in 2017,
meaning Boeing has to work in
earnest this year toward completing
the analysis and making sure plans
are in place to start extending them.
The SLEP will apply to all 563
Super Hornets in the inventory, plus
any aircraft Congress adds. By com-
parison, only about 150 Hornets
will go through a SLEP program.
“We did the SLAP starting with
what we thought would be the
hardest spots and worked our
way to the easiest spots,” Gillian
said. “We’ve done all the areas
we thought we’d see engineering
work and fixing required. In gen-
eral, we feel more comfortable with
the Super Hornet. We don’t see a
big area like that where we take a whole area in and
out — we see it more distributed around the airplane.”
“The other big wildcard is corrosion,” Gillian said.
“That’s been another lesson learned from the classic
Hornet. Our SLAP can’t take into account corrosion.
We’ll have to see what’s happening in the airplane in
order to deal with it. We’re going to bring a couple of
high-flight-hour airplanes in and tear them apart to see
what corrosion has done to the airplane.”
Just how much the SLEP program will cost will not
be known until the SLAP is complete, but it will almost
certainly be less expensive on a per-aircraft basis than
The current average cost of a SLEP modification kit
is $2.9 million, according to the Navy.
This year, Boeing will be focused on continuing that
analysis in preparation for the first SLEP kits.
“No. 1 is continuing to do the analysis and get through
more hot spots to understand what needs to change in
the airplane,” Gillian said. “No. 2 is the two airplanes
we’re going to tear apart and see the corrosion. No. 3 is
working to get the SLEP kits procured to be ready.” n
An F/A 18E Super Hornet from the Tomcatters of Strike Fighter Squadron 31
lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington March
13 in the Atlantic Ocean. The Navy is planning to extend the service lives of its
entire fleet of Super Hornets from 6,000 flight hours to 9,000.