Attrition: F-18s Wearing Out Ahead of Schedule

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November20, 2006: Although the U.S. Navy has not been exposed to much combat damage in Iraq and Afghanistan, many navy aircraft are wearing out faster because they are being used more than they normally would in peacetime. The aircraft taking the biggest beating are the early model F-18s. These entered service in the 1980s, and operate on U.S. carriers, and from land bases for the U.S. Marine Corps andseven foreign nations. The carrier based F-18s were built to last for about 2,000 carrier landings, at the rate of about a hundred a year. These operations have been described, with some accuracy, as controlled crashes, and they put enormous stress on the aircraft. Navy carriers have been supplying air support for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, and this has resulted in some of the older F-18s reaching the 2,000 carrier landing mark sooner than expected. This is expected to lead to about a billion dollars worth of extra costs to refurbish those F-18s that are now showing their age earlier than expected. Other carrier aircraft are also taking a heavy beating, but these are either on their way out (like the EA-6), or relatively new (like the F-18E).

 


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