F404 performance and reliability continue to set the standard for fighter engines. More than 3,700 F404 engines are in service, powering the aircraft of military services worldwide, including the F/A-18 Hornets of the U.S. Navy, plus the U.S. Marine Corps and the F-117 Stealth Fighters of the USAF. The F404-powered Hornets are also operated by the air forces of Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain and Switzerland. F404 derivatives also power Singapore's A-4SU Super Skyhawk, Sweden's JAS39 Gripen, and Korea's T-50. The F404 has more than 10 million flight hours of outstanding operating experience and is combat-proven.
Several international customers have selected the F404/RM12-powered JAS39 Gripen for their fighter replacement programs. South Africa has 28 Gripens on order, with deliveries begining in 2005. Hungary has committed to lease and buy 14 Gripens from the Swedish Air Force beginning in 2005. In addition, the Gripen is a candidate in fighter competitions of several other countries.
Another derivative of the F404 engine, the F404-GE-102, powers the single-engine T-50 advanced jet trainer/light fighter. Successful first flight occurred in August 2002, with first supersonic flight following only six months later. Initial the T-50 delivery begaai in r 2005. Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Lockheed Martin will produce the T-50 Golden Eagle for the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF), which has announced plans to procure 94 aircraft initially. KAI and Lockheed Martin have also formed T-50 International to jointly market the aircraft to potential export customers.
F404 derivatives also powered Singapore's A-4SU Super Skyhawk. The more powerful engine allowed the aircraft to climb faster, accelerate more rapidly and carry more weapons than the A-4S. It also shortened the Skyhawk's take-off by 30 per cent. The new engines also needed 25 per cent less time to upkeep. The A4S Skyhawk fighter aircraft came into service with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) in 1975. It has undergone a complex upgrade and was re-launched as the A4SU Super Skyhawk in 1988 with a new General Electric F404-100D engine, upgraded avionics and improved weapons delivery capability.
Northrop developed a single-engine derivative of its highly successful F-5, dubbed the F-20 Tigershark, in order to market an advanced fighter to foreign military markets. The twin J85 turbojets of the earlier plane were replaced by a single General Electric F404-GE-100 low-bypass turbofan; this yielded some 70 percent greater thrust and resulted in greatly enhanced performance.
The F404-102D was selected by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and U.S. Air Force to power the X-45B Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV), currently under development by The Boeing Company. In addition to single-engine reliability features, low observable technology will also be incorporated into the engine, which is scheduled to fly in 2005.
The F404/F2J3 is powering the India Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas) during its flight test program. Indian defense officials have also expressed their intent to procure 50 F404 engines to power the initial Tejas production aircraft.
Altitude testing of the General Electric F404-GE-402 engine with a new radial flameholder was successfully completed in late 2003 in AEDC's Propulsion Development Test Cell T-4. Volvo Aero Corporation in Trollhattan, Sweden developed the radial flameholder for the RM12 engine. The RM12, a derivative of the F404 engine, is produced by Volvo under license to GE for the Swedish SAAB Gripen fighter aircraft. While at AEDC, the 17,700-pound thrust engine underwent approximately 51 hours of simulated altitude testing under a Navy Component Improvement Program (CIP) on behalf of the Finnish and Swiss Air Forces, international operators of the F/A-18 aircraft. The test objectives were to demonstrate performance, lightoff capability and operability of the F404-GE-402 engine with the radial flameholder installed.
In late 1998 the F/A-18C/D Fleet had "Bare Firewalls" for current F404 engines with GE. The supply chain was unable to deliver parts on time. The engines were overhauled by NADEP JAX for USAF and USN. At that time a total of 79 F/A-18's were grounded awaiting the delayed F404 engine parts. GE was told that if existing ICP contracts for parts were not met, DPAS could penalize contractually for schedule delays. A Get Well plan was provided by GE to DCMA & Navy within 15 days of meeting. The parts problem was solved for NAVICP.
Performance Based Logistics (PBL) is the preferred Department of Defense (DoD) product support strategy to improve weapons system readiness by procuring performance, which capitalizes on integrated logistics chains and public/private partnerships. The cornerstone of PBL is the purchase of weapons system sustainment as an affordable, integrated package based on output measures such as weapons system availability, rather than input measures, such as parts and technical services. DoD uses PBL to improve weapons systems readiness by using the best mix of DoD and industry resources to operate and maintain weapons systems at reduced cost over their useful lives. Winners are selected from three award categories: system level, sub-system level, and component level.
Naval Inventory Control Point (NAVICP)-led Performance Based Logistics (PBL) Teams were recently announced as winners in the first annual Secretary of Defense PBL Awards competition. The awards spotlight significant PBL successes and encourage greater use of PBL throughout the Department of Defense (DoD). The two Navy teams are the Navy/General Electric (GE) F404 PBL Team (sub-system level winner), and the Navy/Honeywell Auxiliary Power Unit Total Logistics Support (APU/TLS) PBL Team (component level winner). Their innovative logistics support solutions significantly increased the readiness of the Navy's front line fighter aircraft, the F/A-18 Hornet, and that of other Navy aircraft, and reduced the cost to operate and maintain those aircraft over their useful lives. By early 2006 the F404 engine stood at its highest level of combat readiness and customer satisfaction since its introduction to the fleet.
The fan drive shafts of the F404-GE-400 and F404-GE-402 engines used to power the F/A 18A through F/A 18D "Hornet" aircraft have a tendency to coke, because of repeated heating and cooling of the engine. Coke is the petroleum deposits that build up on the engine drive shaft as jet fuel is burned. Because this shaft is an integral critical component of the F404, improper maintenance could potentially cause an uncontained failure of the engine resulting in possible loss of aircraft and life.
Currently, the Fleet uses a variety of measures to clean the shaft that includes soaking the F404 engine shaft in solvent (that happens to be a Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP)) over several days and repeatedly scraping the coking deposits from the shaft, which is labor intensive and difficult to accomplish. As a result, the Intermediate (I) level repair facilities have requested an easier and safer way to remove the coking deposits.
A recommended solution for removing the coking deposits from the F404 engine shaft is to utilize plastic media blast (PMB) in either a walk-in booth or modified glove box environment at I-level maintenance facilities. The F-404 Engine Field Service Team (FST) in conjunction with NAVAIR's Engineering Competency (AIR 4.0) and the Naval Air Depot (NADEP) Jacksonville, FL conducted the required testing and validation to ensure this technology is appropriate during I-level maintenance actions. Initially, this technology was only approved by the F-404 Engine FST for use during Depot (D) level maintenance actions following chemical strip.
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