Navy to Slash Legacy F/A-18 Hornet Fleet To Prop Up Beleaguered USMC Squadrons

The U.S. Navy has revealed that it will send 136 older F/A-18A-D Hornets to the boneyard to serve as parts donors for other jets, which it will eventually turn over to the Marine Corps. At the same time, the service is buying more F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and has hired Boeing to begin overhauling and upgrading existing Super Hornets to the new Block III configuration .

On March 6, 2018, Defense News reported that the Navy had approved plans to strike the F/A-18A-D Hornets from the rolls over a period spanning between the 2017 and 2020 fiscal years. Based on data from the service’s latest budget request for the 2019 fiscal year, which it released in February 2018, and our own analysis, the service had around 270 of these variants, also known collectively as Legacy Hornets, in inventory, as of Jan. 1, 2018. This includes including jets assigned to training, test, and reserve squadrons and the Blue Angels demonstration team .

Two separate reviews in 2017 “determined that 136 aircraft could be authorized for strike because their effective life was consumed and would require significant repair,” U.S. Navy Lieutenant Lauren Chatmas, a service spokesperson, told Defense News. “The decision was based upon readiness risk of existing F/A-18A-D inventory, long term operational costs versus gain in capability, and the potential to improve USMC [U.S. Marine Corps] readiness by transferring best of breed aircraft to the USMC.”

Under this plan, the Navy will then take parts from the retired aircraft to support the remaining planes until such time as it replaces them with newer F/A-18E/Fs. The service expects that four squadrons will get Super Hornets by the end of 2019, but it didn’t disclose which units were in line for the new aircraft. A US Navy F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron Eight Three (VFA-83) lands on the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in 2015 Chatmas explained to Defense News that the service expects this process will save it almost $125 million in the 2019 fiscal year and more than $850 million across its five-year budget outlay. The costs to operate the Legacy Hornets, some of which first entered service in the 1980s , have steadily grown over the years, especially with those jets now long out of production.

The Navy’s plan will also hopefully help the Marines improve the abysmal availability rates of their own Legacy Hornets. The Navy will eventually send the Legacy Hornets with the most life left in them to the Marine Corps as it takes delivery of new Super Hornets.

Per the Marine Corps’ 2018 Aviation Plan , it has almost 180 F/A-18A-Ds spread out across active, reserve, and training squadrons. According to previous reports, there are another approximately 100 aircraft “ out of reporting ” and undergoing heavy maintenance.

But as of February 2017, more than half of the Marine Corps F/A-18A-Ds reportedly weren’t airworthy at all , let alone mission ready, on average. In 2016, the service had taken 30 Legacy Hornets that had been sitting in the main […]