As Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) wraps up its last six F/A-18 legacy Hornet fighters to undergo the Navy’s Center Barrel Replacement (CBR) program, the command’s artisans and staff will likely increase their maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services on the larger, more advanced Super Hornet.
One of the MRO tools used by FRCSW in servicing the Super Hornet are the alignment fixtures housed in Building 378 which will be used for major structural and in-service repairs (ISR).
Costing approximately $4 million each and measuring more than 55 feet in length and about 28 feet wide, the alignment fixtures are applicable to all F/A-18 E-F models and the EA-18G Growler airframe.
“This was a complete new design as we used some lessons learned from the CBR fixtures,” aerospace engineer Derrick Pettit said. “The function of the two are completely different. The CBR+ fixture has one purpose only and that is to replace the CB on the F/A-18 A-D aircraft, while the purpose of the F/A-18E/F and E/A-18G major structural repair fixture is designed to separate the aircraft at all the Factory assembly modules.”
Unlike the legacy Hornet, the Super Hornet does not have a center barrel. The airframe is of a segmented structure made of more composites.
The fixtures will split or remove and replace the following sections of the fuselage: the forward fuselage and the forward center fuselage; the center fuselage (CB) and aft center fuselage; the aft fuselage; the left and right forward leading edge extensions; the left and right middle leading edge extensions and the left and right inlet nacelles.
Made of steel and aluminum, the first fixture was built in 2015 by Votaw Industries and used to establish break down procedures of the segmented aircraft and conduct major repairs. A second fixture was built in 2019.
“The fixture’s next two aircraft will be RW03 and RW04. Both have heat damage to the Inlets and side skins. Both aircraft need to have the Inlets removed and the large skins under the inlet removed and replaced as well as some skins on the inlet itself,” Pettit said.
FRCSW is the only naval facility equipped with the Super Hornet alignment fixtures.