The US Navy’s Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) and Southwest (FRCSW) have successfully completed the first at-sea repair of an F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft.

This first-of-its-kind repair work, completed on 9 January, was carried out by a team of specialists and engineers from FRCSE and FRCSW.

Assigned under Strike Fighter Squadron-136, the aircraft was damaged after its in-flight starboard engine caught fire during routinely flight operations in August last year.

It was operating aboard Nimitz-class ship USS George H W Bush (CVN 77), under Carrier Strike Group (CSG)-10’s scheduled deployment.

Following the incident, the deployed maintainers conducted evaluation and discovered noticeable charring and burns on various components of aircraft.

Due to high degree of heat and fire, aircraft’s starboard engine bay, 68R door skin, vent screen, formers, S11 skin and hardware suffered damage and were approved for repair. 

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According to the US Navy, such a kind of extensive damage requires the aircraft to be ‘craned off the ship’ in usual instances for transporting it to a location where the repair can be performed.

This further makes aircraft inoperable for the rest of its deployment. To avoid this, the FRCSW, FRCSE as well as Naval Air Station Oceana, Sigonella, and Norfolk prepared to deliver required tools, equipment and technical experts to CVN 77.

It then took 33 days to complete the repair work on F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft after the arrival of parts and craftsmen.

Carrier Air Wing (CVW)-7 commander captain Thomas Bodine said: “The expert repairs of FRC artisans proves it’s possible to perform this crucial maintenance in a deployed environment, making us a more lethal fighting force and providing a springboard to return even greater repair capability back out to sea.”