WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Navy will inspect hundreds of fighter jets built by Boeing Co. after discovering "fatigue cracks" on more than a dozen aircraft deployed overseas.
The service issued an inspection alert late Thursday for all 636 Hornet aircraft to reduce any safety risk to pilots and the planes. The attack aircraft, which have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan by the Navy and Marine Corps, cost roughly $57 million each.
Each Hornet will be inspected to check for cracks in a hinge that connects the aileron to the plane's wing. Ailerons are flaps that control a plane's banking movements and help to stabilize the aircraft in flight.
Failure of the hinge could "result in loss of (the) aileron, possible further damage to the aircraft, or possible loss of the aircraft," according to the Navy.
Most of the inspections are expected to be completed within the next few weeks. The service plans to stagger its inspections and repairs to spare disruptions of any missions, Navy spokesman Lt. Clayton Doss said Friday. The service will then decide whether to ground planes or restrict flights.
The first crack was discovered during a routine flight inspection.
John Pike, a defense analyst and director of GlobalSecurity.org, said carrier-based aircraft absorb more shock and corrosion than land-based models as they slam onto carriers' shorter runways at high-speeds in saltwater air that can rot the planes.
"Cracks and corrosion. That's what kills airplanes," said Pike.
There are 112 Hornets deployed on carriers worldwide, including in the western Pacific and the Arabian Sea. The planes affected have flown between 5,000 and 7,500 flight hours, according to the Navy.
The Navy twice has extended the life of the Hornets to a maximum of 10,000 hours of service to help bridge the gap until the Joint Strike Fighter, a new stealth fighter jet built by Lockheed Martin Corp., comes online.
The legacy planes are expected to be retired in 2023.
Boeing representatives did not return calls for comment Friday afternoon.
Shares of the Chicago-based aerospace manufacturer fell $1.09 to $45.43 in afternoon trading.