Attrition: F-18E Shows Its Age Earlier Than Expected

Archives

May 21, 2007: The U.S. Navy has discovered that part of the wings on their F-18E (officially the "F/A-18E/F Super Hornet") are wearing out faster than expected. Instead of lasting 6,000 flight hours, the portion of the wing that supports the pylons holding stuff (bombs, missiles, equipment pods or extra fuel tanks) is now expected to be good for no more than 3,000 flight hours. The metal, in effect, is weakening faster than expected. Such "metal fatigue", which ultimately results in the metal breaking, is normal for all aircraft. Calculating the life of such parts is still part art, as well as a lot of science. The navy will modify existing F-18s to fix the problem, which is a normal response to such situations. Sometimes these fixes cost millions of dollars per aircraft, but this particular fatigue problem will cost a lot less to fix.

The problem does not occur with the older F-18s (the A, C and D models) because, while they are also called F-18s, they are not the same as the F-18 E, F and G models. That's because, when the navy decided to build a replacement for the earlier F-18, they found they could get away with calling it an upgraded F-18 model. Thus, instead of it being called the F-24 (the next number available since the start of the Department of Defense's standard designation system in 1962) it could be called the F-18 E and F. While the F-18F looks like the original F-18, it is actually quite different. The F-18E is about 25 percent larger (and heavier) than the earlier F-18s, and had a new type of engine. By calling it an upgrade, it was easier for the navy to get the money from Congress. In the early 1990s, Congress was expecting a "peace dividend" from the end of the Cold War, and was slashing the defense budget. The "F/A" designation was also invented, ostensibly to indicate that the aircraft was a fighter (the "F") and light bomber (the "A" for "Attack"). There was a lot of commonality between the two F-18s, but they are basically two different aircraft.

 


Article Archive

Attrition: Current 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 


X

ad
0
20

Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close