The “Landing Gear Refurbishment Program” includes preventive extended maintenance of the F/A-18 landing gear in order to ensure that the aircraft can operate until the end of its useful life. The main and nose landing gear is responsible for allowing the F/A-18 fighter jet to take off reliably and land gently on runways and aircraft carriers. With a maximum take-off weight of 30,000 kg and an average approach speed of 125 knots (230 km/h), the landing gear is subjected to extremely high loads. This is why landing gear is a safety and mission-critical element of flight operation.
The program includes individual overhaul of the landing gear. This involves fully dismantling the landing gear and removing the obsolete surface protection. All components are then checked for corrosion, among other things, and targeted overhauls are carried out. Furthermore, new bearings are installed and the entire system is measured with high precision and all surfaces are treated and compared with the requirements of the specification. The hydraulic system is replaced and its load-bearing capacity is tested on a test bench at more than 210 bar. The electronic sensors and wiring harness are replaced and the runtime behavior of the signals is checked.
The entire process chain is always being optimized and ensures efficient lead times as well as short aircraft downtimes of only a few days for changing the landing gear. At the end of the installation process, the final inspection and approval are carried out by an inspector. The comprehensive expertise for the program is based on various roles held by RUAG:
- Overall System Technical Responsibility (OSTR)
- Life-Cycle Center (LCC)
- Design Organization (DO)
- Experienced maintenance and modernization organization
The aircraft will only be handed over to the customer after a successful test flight by a RUAG factory pilot. “Our team has once again confirmed its expertise in F/A-18 product life cycle management and we will continue to strive to further optimize and reduce lead times,” emphasized Sven Fischer, Head of Projects & Products for the Air Business Unit.
F/A-18 users are not the only ones who can benefit from RUAG’s expertise: cross-platform requests, such as for the Super Puma helicopter or highly modern, autonomous UAVs are also possible. As an industry partner for the F/A-18 fighter jet, RUAG has checked, dismantled, reworked and re-installed the F/A-18 landing gear for its national customer. The program thus supports the sustainable national operational readiness of the fleet and Swiss military independence.