Military Aviation


16 Hornets have already been shipped to the maintenance facility at Cecil Airport in Jacksonville, Fla., where Boeing, under a USMC contract, is installing the F/A-18C+ upgrade

Tucson’s 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) recently completed a project to withdraw 23 F/A-18C Hornet jet fighters from war-reserve storage and deliver them to the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) for return to flying service.

The 309th AMARG is part of the Ogden Air Logistics Complex and Air Force Sustainment Center within Air Force Materiel Command.

As explained by Teresa Pittman and Rob Raine, 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, in the article 309th AMARG delivers 23 F/A-18C Hornets ahead of schedule, using continuous process improvement, termed “Art of the Possible,” the AMARG team dramatically reduced the time to deliver each aircraft, completing the project for the Marine Corps one year ahead of schedule.

In order to address Marine Corps aircraft readiness constraints, the U.S. Navy developed a requirement for withdrawing the Hornets from AMARG, America’s National-Level Air Power Reservoir.

Employing a multi-skilled, six-member team of aviation mechanics, AMARG personnel began dismantling the F/A-18Cs by removing engines and wings, retracting landing gear, and ultimately placing the aircraft on shipping fixtures.

309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group mechanics carefully place a removed stabilator from an F/A-18C Hornet at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., on June 6, 2016, onto a transport cart as part of the preparation to transport the aircraft to a Boeing maintenance facility at Cecil Airport, Jacksonville, Fla.

The Navy/Marine Corps requirement called for nine aircraft to be delivered in 2016; another seven in 2017; and the final seven in 2018.

Showcasing AMARG’s resolve to reduce customer costs and increase throughput while maintaining high quality, the aircraft withdrawal team, working within the “Art of the Possible” framework, reduced the number of production hours spent on each aircraft by half.

“With an acceleration of the Hornet production line and a schedule to deliver only seven aircraft in 2017, we had the momentum and opportunity to introduce additional jets originally scheduled for completion in 2018,” said Timothy Gray, AMARG’s acting director at the time of completion. “Doing that required additional Navy funding for this year.”

By combining Hornet requirements spanning 2017 and 2018 into a single year, the AMARG team doubled their efforts on behalf of Marine Corps warfighters and finished dismantling and preparing the remaining 14 aircraft for shipment by late July, a year ahead of schedule.

A total of 16 Hornets were shipped to the maintenance facility at Cecil Airport in Jacksonville, Fla., where Boeing, under a U.S. Marine Corps contract, is installing the F/A-18C-plus (F/A-18C+) upgrade.

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Another seven air frames are staged and on stand-by for transport to the Florida-based modernization facility.

Noteworthy the 23 F/A-18C Hornet fighters refurbished by 309th AMARG are part of the so called USMC “C+ Program,” a plan aimed to upgrade 30 retired F/A-18C Hornets 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.

The remaining 7 of the 30 to be-upgraded F/A-18s are being transferred from the U.S. Navy that is replacing its legacy Hornets with the more capable Super Hornets.

This 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.

Eventually the delivery of these aircraft will alleviate the critical shortage of operational fighters faced by USMC.

309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group mechanics work to remove a stabilator from an F/A-18C Hornet at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., on June 6, 2016, in preparation for the aircraft to be transported to a Boeing maintenance facility at Cecil Airport in Jacksonville, Fla.

Photo credit: Teresa Pittman and Alex R. Lloyd / U.S. Air Force

Artwork courtesy of

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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