F-18 Super Hornet Service Life


It is common practice for the Navy to keep an airframe in service for about 20 years or so. Since production of a particular type of aircraft often spans about 10 years, that means that a given design tends to remain in service for about 30 years as newly-built planes replace the original ones that have become worn out. It is therefore not surprising that the Navy currently plans to keep the F-18E/F Super Hornet in service until about 2030.

F-18F fighter landing aboard an aircraft carrier
F-18F fighter landing aboard an aircraft carrier

However, based on past history, it would not be a surprise if Boeing eventually offers an updated Super Hornet (perhaps the F-18H/J) incorporating a series of enhancements. Similar enhancements are common practice, much like the F-18C/D was an improvement over the original F-18A/B. Such a move would probably extend the service life of the Super Hornet family for another 10 or 15 years out to 2045 or so. The Super Hornet may well be around long enough for your children to fly!

Just for comparison, it is anticipated that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, due to begin entering service around 2010, will remain in service until at least 2050. An even more extreme example is the long-lived B-52 Stratofortress that began entering service in 1954 and may well continue serving until at least 2025. Having given the Air Force 50 years of service, B-52 crews have already included sons and grandsons of original crew members.
- answer by Jeff Scott, 8 February 2004

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