Editor’s note: This feature is part of a Hill Air Force Base 80th anniversary series. These articles will feature the base’s historical innovations and achievements, and will highlight mission platforms that have been operated and supported throughout the decades.
HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Air Force Materiel Command awarded Hill AFB’s Ogden Air Logistics Center a modification, corrosion control, and paint contract for U.S. Navy F/A-18 aircraft on Aug. 24, 1993. The $61 million, five-year contract resulted from negotiations in response to Defense Management Report Decision 908 and initially called for the maintenance of 244 aircraft that included a basic year and four one-year renewal options.
The first F/A-18 arrived at Hill AFB on December 1, 1993, flown in from Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station, South Carolina, by Utah-native Marine pilot Major John Crook. The Ogden ALC planned for 163 days to complete the overhaul of the first F/A-18, while anticipating to track down to 153 days for the second and 143 days for the third, before settling into a 133 day flow for the remainder of the 22 aircraft scheduled throughout the year (at a rate of nine aircraft per quarter).
Prior to the arrival of the first F/A-18, 55 personnel from the Ogden ALC received specialized training from the U.S. Navy at LeMoore Naval Air Station, California, on areas such as flight control and electrical and hydraulic systems. Those who received this initial training then served as trainers for the remainder of the personnel selected to work on the F/A-18s. Ogden ALC personnel also took advantage of the opportunity to work with Navy maintainers when a group of Marines from Cherry Point Naval Air Station, South Carolina, visited Hill AFB to fly and train with the 419th Fighter Wing at the Utah Test and Training Range.
They assisted the Marines in launch and recovery operations, engine removal and installation, and work on the aircraft’s avionics system. This also provided the opportunity for the Ogden ALC personnel to create Plastisol molds of the areas on the aircraft that could not be painted. This preparation saved an estimated two weeks on completion of the initial F/A-18 to go through Ogden ALC’s maintenance line.
The new workload required some innovative solutions on the part of the Ogden ALC, which needed to adapt hangar space previously used for F-16 maintenance operations. The F/A-18 is about 5 feet longer and 14 feet wider than the F-16. By adapting the space, and through efforts such as repainting floor lines, the Ogden ALC made it possible to create 6 repair stations for the larger F/A-18s in the area that previously supported 7 of the smaller F-16s, losing only one aircraft space. Additionally, Ogden ALC engineers designed and manufactured 30 equipment items needed to work on the F/A-18. This saved approximately $100,000 of what it would have cost to purchase the items. The Ogden ALC also established an accounting system to capture all the costs associated with the new work load.
Other organizations, outside of the Ogden ALC’s Directorate of Maintenance, also assisted in the successful support of the new work load. The 649th Air Base Group met frequently with the Navy Aviation Supply Office to establish the needed part supply network and the Contracting Directorate set up contracts in advance to locally procure some of the needed parts.
The Ogden ALC completed maintenance on the first F/A-18 to go through its line on May 19, 1994. A year and a half later, in December 1995, the final F/A-18 to go through the Ogden ALC’s line departed Hill AFB for North Island, California. The Navy chose to not continue the contract after the first year because, according to a news release from Utah Congressman Jim Hansen, the Navy concluded that its North Island facility could perform the work in a shorter time for less money. During the news release, Rep. Hansen cited a GAO investigation that found “the Navy’s analysis did not always use the most current and complete information available … Ogden’s costs were slightly lower.”
During the short-lived contract, 36 of the twin-engine, multi-role, carrier-based fighters passed through Hill AFB hangars. Ogden ALC maintainers inspected the aircraft, made modifications to prevent corrosion, treated corrosion where necessary, and gave them a fresh coat of paint. Throughout the project about 150 personnel were directly or indirectly involved with the F/A-18 work load. When the contract ended the majority of those personnel shifted to F-16 and C-130 maintenance operation areas.