The US Navy has awarded a new contract, valued at up to $73m, to Boeing for the upgrade and modernisation of its entire fleet of F/A-18 multirole combat aircraft.
The latest indefinite-delivery contract is intended to extend the life of the existing Super Hornet jets.
Boeing is set to begin carrying out the initial updates to the F/A-18 aircraft under the deal, which will help convert the existing Block II Super Hornets into the latest Block III configuration.
The upgraded Block III aircraft are expected to feature improved network capability, advanced cockpit systems and conformal fuel tanks for increased range.
In addition, the Block III configuration includes signature enhancements and an improved communication system.
The modernisation project is anticipated to ensure that the F/A-18 jet remains in active service with the US Navy for the next several decades.
Boeing Service Life Modification (SLM) programme director Mark Sears said: “The initial focus of this programme will extend the life of the fleet from 6,000 to 9,000 flight hours.
“But SLM will expand to include Block II to Block III conversion, systems grooming and reset and O-level maintenance tasks designed to deliver a more maintainable aircraft with an extended life and more capability.
“Each of these jets will fly another ten to 15 years, so making them next-generation aircraft is critical.”
Upgrade works on the initial four units of the combat jet are scheduled to begin in April and will be carried out at Boeing’s manufacturing centre in St. Louis, Missouri, US.
The production of additional F/A-18 aircraft will be conducted next year in San Antonio, Texas.
Furthermore, additional follow-on contracts are expected to be awarded to the company over the next ten years.
Boeing is currently slated to modernise approximately 50 units of the US Navy’s F/A-18 aircraft each year by 2023.
The enhancement work, along with the construction of new aircraft, is expected to provide the navy with highly efficient Super Hornets into the 2040s.