Military Aviation

Boeing to upgrade 30 retired F/A-18s to boost USMC Hornet fleet combat readiness

USMC F/A-18s upgrade

The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) is facing a critical shortage of operational fighters.

In fact the Marine Corps aviation is pushing the so-called “C+ Program” a plan that will see Boeing taking 30 retired F/A-18C Hornets and upgrade them to the most state-of-the-art platform, creating the F/A-18C+ to maintain the combat ready status of its aged fleet of F/A-18 Hornets until the F-35 Lightning II is fielded in numbers.

As explained by, twenty-three of the aircraft to be updated are being recovered from the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (309 AMARG) facility, the largest military aircraft storage center in the world, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. Most of these Hornets are F/A-18Cs which have not reached their original flight hour limits, while the remaining seven F/A-18s are being transferred from the U.S. Navy that is replacing its legacy Hornets with the more capable Super Hornets.

Boeing refurbishment will bring new life to these old airframes: indeed the Hornets modernized to the C+ standard will feature not only an extension of their service life from 6,000 to 8,000 hours, but also new avionics and an updated AN/APG-65 radar.

F-35 replacing EA-6Bs, AV-8Bs and F/A-18s

“As a former squadron commander, I knew how important it was to have aircraft on the ramp. With this C+ program, we are introducing good viable aircraft back into the fleet for them to use for years to come,” remarks Bill Maxwell, a Boeing F/A-18 Production Senior Manager and retired Marine Corps pilot.

Boeing will complete the F/A-18s modernization at Naval Air Station (NAS) Cecil Field near Jacksonville, Fla.

The USMC plans to replace all of its EA-6Bs, AV-8Bs and F/A-18s, with a planned procurement of 353 F-35Bs and 67 F-35Cs. Noteworhty, while the F-35Bs of VMFA-121 Green Knights have achieved initial operational capability (IOC) in July 2015, the Corps is going to receive the F-35Cs in the next few years and, similarly to the USMC F/A-18 Hornets currently in service, they will be used for carrier air wing battle group integration and in the land based expeditionary role.

Photo credit: Boeing

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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