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US Navy to reduce classic Hornet fleet

180302-N-LK571-0023  SOUTH CHINA SEA (March 2, 2018) An F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 prepares to make an arrested landing aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is operating in the western Pacific as part of a regularly scheduled deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Granito/Released)

All remaining US Navy classic Hornets were built between 1980 and 1995. (US Navy)

The US Navy has announced plans to strike 136 F/A-18A-D ‘classic’ Hornets from its inventory in the next few years in a bid to reduce maintenance costs on these ageing fighters.

To compensate for the reduction in aircraft, the Navy plans to increase its Super Hornet acquisition. 110 F/A-18E/Fs have been funded as part of the FY2019 Defense budget, while 24 jets funded in the FY18 budget remain in limbo due to that budget not yet being passed.

“Two strike board reviews with Fleet, CNO, and NAVAIR personnel determined that 136 aircraft could be authorised for strike because their effective life was consumed and would require significant repair,” Navy spokesman Lt. Lauren Chatmas told Defense News. “The Navy will strike these aircraft over the course of fiscal years 2017 and 2020.”

The best remaining classic Hornets will be transferred for service with the US Marine Corps which doesn’t operate the Super Hornet, until sufficient F-35Bs are in service.

“The decision was based upon readiness risk of existing F/A-18 A-D inventory, long term operational costs versus gain in capability, and the potential to improve USMC readiness by transferring best of breed aircraft to the USMC.”

The plan will save US$852m (A$1.08bn) over the next five years, with the first four squadrons due to transition to Super Hornets by the end of 2019.