Since 2016, Finnish Air Force F/A-18 multi-role fighters have been capable of carrying air to ground weapons. During Ruska 2017 Air Operations Exercise the exercise troops familiarize themselves with all aspects of planning and execution operations including air-to-ground missions.
Protecting Finland’s population, critical infrastructure of the nation and the troops and capabilities of the Finnish Defence Forces from attacks from the air is the main mission of the air defense of Finland.
The air defense of Finland, led by the Finnish Air Force, is based on Defensive Counter Air missions performed by combat aircraft supported by Ground-Based Air Defence units with both airborne and ground-based capabilities equally important to mission success.
From late 2016, a new type of mission capability has been added to the Finnish Air Force as its the F/A-18 C/D Hornet multi-role fighters reached Full Operational Capability for the use of precision-guided air-to-ground weapons. As a part of the Mid-Life Upgrade 2 (MLU 2) programme that ran from 2012 to 2016, the short range guided bomb JDAM, medium-range glide bomb JSOW and the long-range JASSM standoff missile were integrated to the F/A-18 fleet.
The weapons inventory enables the Finnish Air Force to support all three branches of the Finnish military, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force with the ability to strike various types of ground targets from a distance up to several hundred kilometers. The F/A-18 with the air-to-ground capability is a flexible and fast platform for delivering firepower even during surprising and fast-developing military crises.
The air-to-ground capability of the Finnish Air Force contributes to the Defense of Finland in several ways. One of its important effects is the fact that the potential attacker needs to take into consideration the defender’s ability to strike its units and their staging areas from a distance – something that an air defence force with only Defensive Counter Air and Ground Based Air Defense capabilities is unable to do.
Ruska 17 Air Operations exercise, which took place in from 9 to 13 October, focused on all aspects of the air defense of Finland. In terms of the amount of troops participating Ruska 17 was the largest exercise of the Finnish Air Force in 2017. One of the training targets of Ruska was to test the use of the precision-guided air-to-ground weapons of the Finnish Air Force F/A-18 Hornet multi-role fighter fleet as a part of the operations of the Finnish Defence Forces.
“Ruska 17 was successful in testing our capability to fight a battle as an air force, says Brigadier General, Jari Mikkonen, the Chief of Staff of the Finnish Air Force. ” In this year’s exercise we were able to train the whole chain of functions required for the execution of air operations in an efficient and safe manner, Air base operations, Command and Control, surveillance, operational command and flight operations are all functions that one needs to master.”
“During the exercise week we carried out successful large-scale air operations that included the use of our air-to-ground capabilities. An exercise that puts the performance and capabilities of all types of Air Force war time units into a test is vital to the air defense of Finland.
The main goal of Ruska exercises that have been organized annually is to train Finnish Defence Forces personnel, conscripts and reservists in their tasks in all functions of the war time air defence of Finland.
During Ruska 17 Finnish Defence Forces personnel, reservists and conscripts were trained to plan an conduct operations including the usa of the F/A-18 air-to-ground precision-guided weapons.
“Well-trained troops are key elements in our capability to fulfil our mission, BGen Mikkonen says. “Ruska 17 was an excellent opportunity to train our personnel, reservists and conscripts. A motivated reserve force that knows its duties well ensures the continuity of our operations and brings flexibility and resilience. Judging by what I saw during Ruska 17 and the feedback I’ve received, our reserve is meets these standards well.
A Test of Finnish-Swedish Cooperation
Finnish-Swedish air force cooperation has a long history and in the recent years it has intensified. In 2016 Finland’s and Sweden’s combat aircraft took part in each other’s Ruska 16 and Flygvapenövning 16 exercises.
In Ruska 17, the Swedish air force took part in the exercise with flying units carrying out both air defense tasks of Finland in the and acting as the adversary of the defenders. Earlier this fall, Finnish Air Force F/A-18s were also seen in a similar role in Sweden’s Aurora 17 exercise.
In Ruska 17, a significant milestone was achieved as the Swedish Air Force Gripen multi-role fighters were integrated in the air defense system of Finland performing their missions together with the Finnish F/A-18 multirole fighters showing significant interoperability. The air forces train together in the context of the Finnish-Swedish Defense Cooperation (FISE) that the governments of Finland and Sweden have agreed to pursue.
This ensures that the air force cooperation can deepen further in the future.
“Swedish Air Force took part in Ruska as a part of both the defensive Blue force and their adversary”, Bgen Jari Mikkonen says. “In this week’s exercise, the FISE defense cooperation was realized in our ability to conduct air operations together. We showed that both our procedures and our systems are interoperable enabling us to deepen our cooperation further. By taking part in each other’s exercises we make more extensive and versatile air operations possible and also develop our capabilities.”
The decision on Ruska 17 and its execution schedule was made over a year ago which also marked the start for the exercise planning.
Preparations for Ruska 17 also included one preparatory exercise: During week 40 in early October Finnish and Swedish aircraft participating in Ruska took part in Baana 17 air exercise that focused on flying operations to and from a temporary road base in Vieremä, Eastern Finland.
Late in the week preceding Ruska live exercise stage was also the time when most of the troops required for the event were called for service and equipped for their mission. A total of 5,100 personnel took part in Ruska 17 with 2,900 reservists included in the number.
According to BGen Mikkonen, the Ruska 17 exercise planning, preparatory actions and the live exercise stage were conducted successfully.
“The Red force provided the Blue forces with an adversary that showed variety in its actions and the difficulty level of the training was gradually raised during the exercise. The Blue force showed skills and capability of the Finnish air defense that is sure to have a pre-emptive effect on military crises.”
The flight operation of Ruska 17 ended in the afternoon of October 13. Before concluding the exercise, the temporary air base functions established will be removed and the reservists will return to their civilian duties.
“After the exercise I’m looking forward to receiving feedback and suggestions for the development of the exercise concept”, Brigadier General Mikkonen says. “I want to take this opportunity to thank the troops participating in the exercise for excellent performance. I’d also like to thank the residents of the area of operations for understanding as the jet noise caused by a large-scale exercise such as Ruska can be quite high at times”.
The Finnish Defence Forces’ Logistics Command sent a Request for Information (RfI) on weapons and other equipment regarding the HX fighter project to the governments of seven countries to be forwarded to their respective industries. A request for a quotation (RfQ) will be drawn up on the basis of the responses received.
The main goal of the RfI is to determine what capabilities will be available to meet Finland’s estimated future needs and therefore the focus is on available potential and capabilities in the post-2025 period. RfIs were sent to a number of government representatives in France, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Norway, Sweden and the United States to be further sent to designated companies.
The weapons and equipment will be procured on a separate contract alongside the aircraft and RfQs on them will be sent in spring 2018. The decision on the weapons and equipment will be made as part of the decision on the aircraft type. Procurement contracts are scheduled to be signed in spring 2021. Since the estimated total price to replace the Hornet fleet will also include weapons and sensors, the negotiations to procure them will be scheduled to take place alongside negotiations to procure fighters; this will ensure that aircraft-specific systems will be managed. It will be possible to use some of the systems in several multi-role fighters and this will be an important factor to consider in the contracts.
The official RfQ to replace the Hornet fleet will be made in spring 2018 after five aircraft producers who have responded to the RfIs have been selected. Testing the suitability of different fighters in Finland’s conditions will be started in 2019 and the final procurement decision will be made in 2021. The decision will be based on four considerations: military capabilities of the multi-role fighter, security of supply chain and industrial cooperation, life-cycle costs, and security and defence policy considerations.
The new multi-role fighters will be introduced in 2025-2030, at the same time as the Hornet fleet will be decommissioned.
The Finnish Air Force (FINAF) will conduct the Ruska 17 air operations exercise between 9 and 13 October.
More than 60 aircraft and approximately 4,500 personnel will take part in it.
In addition to the Finnish Defence Forces’ troops, aircraft and personnel of the Swedish Air Force will also participate in the exercise both as part of the forces practising air defence tasks and in the role of opposing forces. In the week preceding Ruska 17, between 2 and 6 October, the Baana 17 live air exercise will take place at the road base situated in the North Savonian locality of Vieremä. The road base will be used in both of these exercises.
The Ruska air operations exercise is FINAF’S largest military exercise in 2017, in terms of number of troops involved in the training. The objective of the annual Ruska exercises is to train the Finnish Defence Forces’ personnel, conscripts and reservists for carrying out air defence tasks under emergency conditions, with consideration to all its aspects.
Ruska 17 will feature approximately 4,500 Defence Forces personnel, conscripts and reservists. FINAF will dispatch more than 30 Hornet multirole fighters and 14 Hawk jet trainers along with transport and liaison aircraft to take part in the exercise missions, to be joined by NH90 helicopters of the Finnish Army.
The Swedish Air Force will participate with eight Gripen multirole fighters along with an Argus airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft. The Swedish aircraft will be involved both as part of the troops practising air defence tasks and in the role of opposing forces.
2016 was the first year when the Finnish and Swedish Air Forces participated in each other’s air operations exercises. In that year, the two Air Forces took part in the Ruska 16 and Flygvapenövning (FVÖ) 16 exercises in the role of opponents of the Host Nation troops that were practising air defence tasks. Ruska 17 will see the first-ever involvement of Swedish Air Force troops as part of the Finnish Defence Forces’ strength practising air defence tasks. In this year’s September, FINAF Hornets participated in the Aurora 17 exercise of the Swedish Armed Forces in a corresponding role.
The Ruska exercise missions will be flown out of the FINAF bases at Rissala, Pirkkala, Tikkakoski and Rovaniemi, bases to be established for temporary deployments at the airports of Oulunsalo, Halli and Kokkola-Pietarsaari and the road base at Vieremä that will already be set up for the Baana 17 exercise taking place in the preceding week. Furthermore, Kallax Air Base in Sweden will also be used in the exercise by participating Swedish Air Force troops.
Area of operations and operating bases in Ruska 17 air operations exercise.
The operations in Ruska 17 will be conducted on a 24-hour basis, with the flight operations scheduled between 8 am and 11 pm on each exercise day. The flight missions will mainly be carried out in an area bordering on Pirkkala, Kuopio, Lieksa, Kuusamo, Rovaniemi, Sodankylä, Oulunsalo and Vaasa in Finland along with Kallax in Sweden. They will also take place in the airspace over the Gulf of Bothnia and in the Cross Border training areas shared by the Finnish and Swedish forces, located west of Rovaniemi. There will be troops moving on foot and in vehicles around the bases for the purpose of combat exercises. Additionally, participating ground based air defence units will operate in the training area at Lohtaja.
Baana 17 exercise at Vieremä between 2 and 6 October
Karelia Air Command will carry out the Baana 17 live air exercise between 2 and 6 October as a separate event associated with Ruska 17. The Vieremä road base located on main road no. 88 will be taken into use for the exercise and will continue to be used during the Ruska exercise until 13 October.
The objective of Baana 17 is to conduct both dual and solo operations based on flight training syllabi from military aerodromes under various weather conditions. Two to four FINAF Hornet multirole fighters and a number of Gripens from the Swedish Air Force will take part in it. The exercise missions will be flown from the Vieremä and Rissala bases on 4 and 5 October between 9 am and 11 pm and on 6 October between 9 am and 4.30 pm.
Comments by U.S. President Donald Trump about Finland’s fighter jet replacement program has lawmakers in that country baffled. At a joint press conference Monday with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, Trump announced that Finland had agreed to buy “a large number” of Super Hornets from Boeing.
One problem. Finland’s fighter replacement competition is still years away from selecting a winning aircraft. Finland has received responses to its request for information about fighter jets from a number of firms, which not surprisingly, were/are interested in any similar Canadian program.
Boeing provided information on its Super Hornet, Dassault Aviation gave details on the Rafale and the Eurofighter organization provided information on the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Other responses to the request came from Lockheed Martin, with its F-35, and Saab with the Gripen E. Finland’s Ministry of Defence denied Trump’s claims. It noted that the program is years away from a decision (2021 is when Finland is expected to select a winner).
“President Trump’s remarks are baffling,” Matti Vanhanen, chairman of the Finnish national parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told Defense News.
“There are still years to run in the fighter replacement competition before a final decision is reached. If the leadership of the United States harbors the idea that the matter is a done deal, then this is not good.”
Dutch air force officers are updating their Canadian counterparts about their progress on the acquisition of F-35 fighter jets as the aircraft’s manufacturer tries to convince the Liberal government of the plane’s suitability as an interim replacement for aging CF-18s.
Lt.-Gen. Dennis Luyt, the head of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, said his organization has been providing updates to Canada on its F-35 purchase and aircrew training. “They are very interested in our experiences,” Luyt said in a recent interview.
“We’re on track,” he added. “It’s looking very promising.”
The Netherlands is purchasing the F-35A as the replacement for its F-16 fighter jets. The Dutch parliament approved an initial order of eight aircraft in March 2015.
The first aircraft are to be delivered in 2019 and Dutch pilots and maintenance crews are currently undergoing training in the U.S. The Netherlands will purchase up to 37 F-35s.
A Dutch air force F-35 was recently on display at the international air show in Abbotsford, B.C.
Luyt said if Canada does eventually buy the F-35, that acquisition would further strengthen the user group of nations operating the plane. Having allied air forces capable of being interoperable with each other is important, he added. “If we operate the same platform it’s obviously a big thing,” Luyt explained.
In a June 1 letter, Lockheed Martin offered the Liberal government the F-35 as an “interim” fighter aircraft.
Last year, the Liberals announced a proposal to buy 18 interim fighter jets from Boeing to deal with a capability gap facing the Royal Canadian Air Force. But that multibillion dollar plan to acquire Super Hornet jets has been thrown into limbo after Boeing filed a trade complaint in the U.S. against Bombardier of Quebec. The Liberal government broke off discussions with Boeing on the Super Hornet deal.
Lockheed Martin has seen opportunity in the rift and has told the Liberals it can deliver F-35s on a similar schedule that was being considered for the Boeing planes. Lockheed Martin president Marillyn Hewson said in the June 1 letter to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and then procurement minister Judy Foote, that Canada could acquire the F-35 at a cost of between $80 million U.S. and $85 million U.S. per aircraft.
Sajjan’s office stated that no decisions have been made about the interim fighter jet and that various options are being looked at.
Luyt said the Netherlands conducted an extensive process to purchase a new fighter jet. “The biggest thing we needed (was) to make a technology leap to a 5th Generation aircraft” he pointed out.
Part of the consideration in selecting the F-35 was interoperability with U.S. forces. If the Dutch air force goes into combat it will likely be with the U.S. “That (interoperability) is an important consideration but not the only one,” Luyt explained.
Every F-35 contains components manufactured by Dutch companies, Lockheed Martin has noted. On Aug. 16, the U.S. Department of Defense announced the overseas warehouse and distribution centre for parts for F-35s in Europe would be located in the Netherlands.
Luyt said one of the other main attractions of the F-35 is that it will be constantly upgraded. “It will be state of the art for decades,” he added.
All the sixty two Finnish Air Force’s Boeing F/A-18C and F/A-18D Hornet multi-role fighters were upgraded to the MLU 2 configuration. The last aircraft having undergone the serial assembly of the second mid-life upgrade (MLU 2) was rolled out of Patria Aviation’s production line at Halli, Jämsä, on the 9th December 2016.
The last Hornet come off the MLU 2 serial production line is the two-seat HN-465.
The F/A-18D Hornet with a registration number HN-465, one of the Air Force’s seven two-seat Hornets, was the last aircraft rolled out of the MLU 2 production line. The serial assemblies of MLU 2 are now completed to all Air Force’s sixty two single and two-seat Boeing F/A-18 C/D Hornet multi-role fighters. The first upgraded aircraft was placed into service in spring 2013.
In conjunction with the Mid-Life Upgrade 2 completed from 2012 to 2016 the Hornet was equipped with the capability, among others, to support land, maritime and air battles with standoff air-to-ground weapons.
The introduction of the new capability is based on the Government Reports on Security and Defence Policy in the 1990s and 2000s, the findings of the Defence Forces Striking Capability Report of 2004 and the tasks assigned to the Air Force in the Defence Forces development programme, explains Colonel Pasi Jokinen, Deputy Chief of Staff Air Force Command Finland.
– The Hornet’s air-to-ground weapons as a new option in the Defence Forces range of capabilities enables to employ effective precision-guided weapons for expeditious and flexible support of joint operations in various locations. Thus, the Air Force is capable of supporting joint combat not only by repelling airborne attacks but also employing weapons against fixed targets where instantly required.
The Hornet’s air-to-ground weaponry is a selection of weapons used by the United States, the Hornet’s primary user, to achieve versatile weapon effect in a cost-effective manner against various targets at different distances. It includes short-range precision-guided bomb (Joint Direct Attack Munition, JDAM), medium-range glide bomb (Joint Standoff Weapon, JSOW) and long-range standoff missile (Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, JASSM).
To install air-to-ground weapons to the Hornet having previously only air-to-air capability, the fleet underwent a series of assemblies and modifications of the equipment and systems required for a new capability in 2012– 2016.
Lieutenant Colonel (Eng.) Harri Korhonen from the Aeronautical Systems Section of the Defence Forces Logistics Command says that serial assemblies were designed in cooperation between the Finnish Defence Forces, Patria Aviation as a strategic industrial partner responsible for maintenance and repair services of the Finnish Air Force’s Hornets, Boeing as the airframe manufacturer of the Hornet and the United States Navy, the aircraft’s primary user.
– In serial assemblies all the MLU 2 modifications and assemblies were completed on the Hornet. They were such as wiring works of new equipment and weapons on all sixty two aircraft, tells Lieutenant Colonel Korhonen. Modifications and updates were carried out at Patria Aviation facility in Halli, Jämsä, in conjunction with scheduled maintenance, and exactly within the set time limit.
During the design and implementation process of the mid-life upgrades the Hornet’s primary user, the United States, had the opportunity to transfer its know-how and expertise in implementing comprehensive upgrades to Finland’s national aerospace and defence industry. This guaranteed that part of the component manufacturing, including wiring works, could be accomplished in Finland and, also, know-how needed to plan maintenance for the remainder of the Hornet’s service life is in homeland use.
While modifications and assemblies were under way, the Air Force prepared for introducing air-to-ground capability also in other fields. The new ordnance was subjected to operational testing and evaluation in Finland. The program involved several live JDAM drops over Rovajärvi range in Lapland. In addition, Hornet pilots along with aircraft maintainers and other specialists from various trades have been trained in the employment, handling, and maintenance of the new weapons.
– With the completion of the last MLU 2 configured Hornet, the Air Force now can field an air-to-ground strike capability to meet the previously established requirements. The aircraft has been cleared to carry precision-guided JDAM bombs and JSOW glide bombs. The integration of the long-range JASSM missile is scheduled for completion in 2017, Jokinen tells.
In April 2016, the Air Force deployed two Hornets and a detachment of around ten airmen to Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake in Nevada for trials and flight tests. NAWS China Lake is the primary weapons research and test facility of the United States Navy. The purpose of the tests is to test and verify the safe and correct operation of the JASSM on the Finnish Hornet. The program will be completed by September 2017.
Two Mid-Life Upgrades as Planned
The Finnish Air Force’s Hornet multi-role fighters were introduced into service in 1995–2000. It was already known during the purchase process that the capabilities of the fighters to remain in service till 2025–2030 will be subject to continuous and systematic development over their entire life cycle. This is the only way, according to Pasi Jokinen, to ensure the fighters’ capability of performing their missions in a rapidly evolving air defence environment on a global scale.
– The fundamentals of a multi-role fighter design such as airframe and power plant operate almost unchanged with the help of maintenance and overhauls for the entire life span of the aircraft. However, changes in the operating environment, for example, the development of weapons systems and the provision of interoperability with the partner nations’ C3 and data transmission systems and new civil air navigation systems, require making the electronics and software updates to aircraft.
The Finnish Air Force’s Hornets have undergone two mid-life upgrades. The Mid-Life Upgrade 1 (MLU 1) completed in 2006–2010 was aimed at maintaining and improving the aircraft’s air-to-air capability. One of the most significant improvements given by MLU 1 was the incorporation of a helmet-mounted sighting system mated with the AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared guided missile with a wide-angle seeker head for enhanced close-in air combat performance. The Mid-Life Upgrade 2 (MLU 2) in 2012–16 focused on providing air-to-ground capability.
Alongside with the upgrades, the Hornet’s capability has continuously been sustained by further spares purchases, structural reinforcements and engine overhauls to ensure its sundown. Consequently, the Hornet is capable of accomplishing its operations safely and reliably till the 2020s. Then a new multi-role fighter to be purchased through the HX Program replaces an obsolescent fleet.
– There will be no post-MLU 2 work; the Hornet will not be given any new capabilities. Only updates and modifications that are essential for the maintenance of flight safety and operational performance will be carried out, Lieutenant Colonel (Eng.) Harri Korhonen sums up.
Hornet Mid-Life Upgrades
Mid-Life Upgrade 1 (2006–10):
AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared guided missile
Helmet-mounted sighting system (Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System, JHMCS)
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan continues to insist that the capability gap, supposed to be filled by the purchase of Boeing Super Hornets as an interim fighter, will still be dealt with.
The U.S. and Canadian governments are still talking about Super Hornets, although the Liberals have cut off Boeing from any discussions.
The Liberal government has taken that action in retaliation for a trade complaint that Boeing has filed with the Trump administration concerning what it claims is unfair subsidies awarded to Bombardier on its CSeries civilian aircraft production.
During his recent appearance at a defence and aerospace conference in Abbotsford, BC, Sajjan the Liberal government has “many other options, so that we can fill this capability gap.”
He, however, didn’t get into details.
“No decision has been made,” he added. “Discussions are still ongoing.”
But there have been suggestions in some quarters of the aerospace industry that the Liberals were considering the purchase of second-hand fighter jets to fill the gap.
Sajjan addressed that issue….somewhat.
“I’d prefer to buy brand new versus – versus used, but we are currently in the process, and we’ll make a decision to making sure that our members in the Canadian Armed Forces have the right tools necessary,” he said.
VILNIUS – NATO fighter jets serving in the Baltic air policing mission were scrambled eight times last week to intercept Russian military aircraft flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said on Monday.
The ministry said that a total of 21 Russian planes were intercepted, around half of which were fighter jets, while the NATO jets also identified several transport and passenger planes over the Baltic Sea.
Most of the Russian aircraft had their automatic transponders switched off, the statement said.
The biggest number of scrambles took place last Thursday, when the alliance’s jets took off three times in total and intercepted ten aircraft.
The Swedish air force is hosting the 2017 Arctic Fighter Meet at the Flygvapnet air-base at Luleå, in the North of Sweden.
The meet is scheduled to take place from 21 to 25 August.
Swedish air Force Gripen fighters and F-16 fighters of the Norwegian air force will be joined by six F/A-18 Hornets and three Hawk-Jet training aircraft of the Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force). Cross Border Training (CBT) between Finland and Norway will take place during the exercise, to hone the skills of the pilots and test the air defence systems of the participating nations.
The aim of the exercise is to fly in accordance with the training programmes of the Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish Air Forces, increase reaction times through airspace incursion drills, as well as to educate newly qualified pilots in Joint-training missions and mission interoperability.
Similar exercises have been held since 2003. The aim is to strengthen defence cooperation in the Nordic countries (NORDEFCO) and to develop the international interoperability. The exercise promotes cooperation between the Nordic nations of NORDEFCO and NATO and is designed to integrate the training programmes of the participating countries and increase operational effectiveness.
For more information, contact the Chief of staff of the Lapland flight detachment Juri Kurttila, p. 0299 800 (vaihde).
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy is looking at ways to accelerate the phase-out of F/A-18C “Classic” Hornet strike fighters from its carrier air wings and replacing the last few squadrons with F/A-18E Super Hornets, a Navy spokeswoman said.
“As we balance operational requirements and our initiatives to build the most capable and ready forward-deployed force, we are identifying the most efficient and effective way to safely transition the last four Navy operational Hornet squadrons to Super Hornets,” Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld, public affairs officer for commander, Naval Air Forces, said in an e-mail to Seapower.
“In order to provide our most capable warfighting force forward, the Navy began the first of the final transitions of our four operational F/A-18C Hornet squadrons to F/A-18E Super Hornet squadrons in July, with an expected completion in [fiscal] ’19. Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131, was the first of the four squadrons to begin the transition last month.”
The other three F/A-18C squadrons, all based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., are VFA-34, VFA-37 and VFA-83.
“Accelerating the transition to Super Hornets will allow cost savings and reduce depot maintenance workload,” Groeneveld said. “As the Navy approaches the end of the extended service life for Hornets, the cost per flight hour continues to increase. Additionally, there are shortages in the Department of the Navy’s spare parts and supply system that have contributed to flight line readiness challenges, as well as our ability to extend the service lives of these airframes.”
She also said the transitions give the Navy the opportunity to select its best-condition Hornets for use by the Marine Corps and by Navy support and reserve units, such as Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center, Fighter Composite Squadron 12, Reserve squadron VFA-204 and the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels.
The Navy is confident it will be able to continue to support all operational requirements as it completes transition of the Hornet fleet to Super Hornets,” she said.
Congress has supported the Navy’s requirements for increased Super Hornet procurement to bridge the gap to the fleet introduction of the F-35C Lightning II strike fighter. The first fleet squadron to make the transition to the F-35C will be VFA-147 in 2018.