An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

News | Oct. 20, 2020

F/A-18 Fleet Support Team Oversees Hornet Readiness Issues

By Jim Markle

Ten years ago, a night training mission from the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) took a terrifying turn as an in-flight refueling mishap occurred between a KC-135 Stratotanker and an F/A-18 Super Hornet off the coast of Southern California.

Even though the In-Flight Refueling (IFR) probe was pulled from the airplane and lodged in the leading edge of the Hornets right-hand vertical stabilizer, the pilot still managed to land safely at Naval Air Station North Island where Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) evaluators accessed the damage and made a repair estimate.

One of the most challenging repairs to the Hornet was the replacement of the former located inside of the cavity where the IFR probe is stowed.

Because the former was not readily available, the command turned to the Fleet Support Team (FST) to make a model for the manufacturing of a new one.

The F/A-18 FST serves as the Navys in-service support provider for engineering and logistical solutions to all F/A-18 activities. The team has been active for more than 20 years and is comprised of approximately 500 engineers, logisticians, chemists and scientists.

Their role is to handle all organizational and depot-level issues with the airframe, and to develop and plan repairs and modifications as in-service repairs or as part of scheduled depot maintenance events.

While the primary body of the FST operates from FRCSW, FRC Southeast handles issues affecting the aircrafts engines and electro-optical infrared components and Naval Sea Systems Command works on some of the airborne electronic attack components.

FST personnel respond to requests ranging from damage engineering dispositions to technical publication deficiency reports. Because their work is global and cannot always be completed onsite, team members often travel overseas or to the fleet.

In the event of an aerial mishap, the FST typically assists the Navy Safety Center, the investigating authority.

The teams expertise targets the technical issues of mishaps. If a mechanical issue were the suspected reason, for example, the FST would dissect the wreckage to determine the cause.

In addition, the aircrafts recorded data is reviewed for anything unusual including caution codes, maintenance or peculiar movements of flight control surfaces.

Growth of the FST program accelerated in the late 1990s as the number of fleet aircraft nearly doubled with the addition of the F/A-18 E and F Super Hornet and G Growler variants.

To increase efficiency and balance resources, the FST joined in an undertaking about four years to determine the need and life-extension requirements of the Navys legacy Hornet fleet. Assessed events included depot-level modifications, repairs, and inspections. 

By striking some aircraft for spare parts and combining or eliminating some planned events, the move gained a projected depot savings of $300 million and $400 million through 2022.

The majority of remaining legacy Hornets are assigned to the Marine Corps.

The F/A-18 FST currently operates within an $80 million annual budget.

Sept. 26, 2022

FRCSW Navy’s Sole Maintainer of Rotodome Radar

A primary tool of the Hawkeye’s defensive posture is the rotodome radar system, maintained by Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW).

Sept. 19, 2022

FRCSW Paraloft Shop Oversees Flight Line Gear

The shop is manned by four Aircrew Survival Equipmentman (PR) sailors who track, update, inspect and test a variety of the aircrew’s equipment including life preservers, water bottles, radios, and medical kits.

Sept. 12, 2022

FRCSW Comptroller Department’s Plan Improves Fiscal Health

To better achieve NWCF goals and overcome ongoing financial issues stemming from various external factors, FRCSW created this “Get-Well Plan” in 2019.

Aug. 30, 2022

Vital Aircraft Parts Restored at FRCSW Metal Processing Shops

Once inducted, components are stripped to their metallic structures through blasting and cleaning methods and inspected for indications of corrosion or unusual wear. About half undergo a non-destructive inspection (NDI) to determine the cause of defects found during visual inspections.

Aug. 19, 2022

Navy Primary Standards Laboratory Operates From FRCSW

Assigned to Buildings 469 and 379, the lab is the Navy’s highest level for metrology calibration (the science of measurements) and provides technical assistance and training to shore metrology and calibration program personnel.

Aug. 12, 2022

FRCSW Generators Shop Serves Multiple Naval Airframes

Among the generators serviced are those of the F/A-18, P-3 Orion, V-22 Osprey, H-53 helicopter and the AV-8B Harrier.

Aug. 8, 2022

FRCSW Fleet Support Team: Naval Aviation’s Problem Solvers

Comprised of approximately 500 engineers, logisticians, chemists and scientists, the FST has served as the Navy’s in-service support provider for engineering and logistical solutions for more than 20 years.

Aug. 1, 2022

FRCSW First Depot to Tackle Super Hornet Service Life Modification

Once again the command is at the maintenance forefront of the F/A-18 airframe, this time taking the lead as the only FRC currently assigned to perform the Service Life Modification (SLM) to the Super Hornet E and F variants.

July 25, 2022

FRCSW Supports Marine Corps CH-53E Helos

The command’s CH-53 program operates in Building 333 where fiberglass and component work is completed, and Building 378 where the remaining airframe work is done.

July 6, 2022

FRCSW Repairs Damaged CMV-22 Osprey

The right-hand inner composite skin of the $75 million aircraft sustained a six-foot by three-foot crack with other, but minor, composite damage.