The US Navy has awarded a new $164m one-year contract to Boeing to continue the modernisation of its entire fleet of F/A-18 combat jets.

Under the service-life modification (SLM) programme, the contract for FY19 also includes a one-year option for 2020.

It will ensure funds for the establishment of a second SLM line under the programme in San Antonio, Texas. The new line will be complementary to the one established last year in St Louis.

Boeing programme director Dave Sallenbach said: “The service-life modification programme is making great strides as we’ve already inducted seven Super Hornets into the programme, and will deliver the first jet back to the navy later this year.

“This programme is crucial in helping the navy with its readiness challenges, and will continue to grow each year with the number of jets we induct.”

According to the company, the proposed San Antonio SLM line will receive its first Super Hornet next month.

The first aircraft will be followed by a further 22 units throughout the contract. Funding will enable the modernisation of ten aircraft, while the option for FY20 would cover up to 35 jets.

The SLM programme is intended to extend the life of the navy’s existing Super Hornets from 6,000 to 10,000 flight hours. The service has more than 550 Super Hornets.

“This programme is crucial in helping the navy with its readiness challenges.”

In order to convert existing Block II Super Hornets to a new Block III configuration, Boeing will start installing initial updates to the aircraft during the early 2020s.

As part of the conversion, the company will install several enhancements, including enhanced network capability, longer range with conformal fuel tanks, an advanced cockpit system, and enhanced communication capabilities.

The modernisation is aimed at ensuring the F/A-18 aircraft remains in active service for a number of decades.

Earlier this month, Boeing unveiled the concept of future F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet.