F/A-18 Hornet

TypeMultirole fighter
Country of originUnited States
ManufacturerMcDonnell Douglas/Boeing Northrop
First flight18 November 1978
Introduced7 January 1983
Numbers builtF/A-18A/B/C/D: 1,480 units
Unit costsUSD 29–57 million (2006 data)
Max speedMach 1.8 (1,190 mph, 1,915 km/h) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m)
Max rangeRange: 1,089 nmi (1,250 miles, 2,000 km) with only two AIM-9s
Combat radius: 400 nmi (460 mi, 740 km) on air-air mission
Ferry range: 1,800 nmi (2,070 mi, 3,330 km)
DimensionsLength: 56 ft (17.1 m)
Wingspan: 40 ft (12.3 m)
Height: 15 ft 4 in (4.7 m)
WeightEmpty weight: 23,000 lb (10,400 kg)
Loaded weight: 36,970 lb (16,770 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 51,900 lb (23,500 kg)
Powerplant2 × General Electric F404-GE-402 turbofans
Dry thrust: 11,000 lbf (48.9 kN) each
Thrust with afterburner: 17,750 lbf (79.2 kN) each
ArmamentGuns: 1× 20 mm (0.787 in) M61 Vulcan nose mounted 6-barreled gatling cannon, 578 rounds

Hardpoints: 9 total: 2× wingtips missile launch rail, 4× under-wing, and 3× under-fuselage with a capacity of 13,700 lb (6,215 kg) external fuel and ordnance

2.75 inches (70 mm) Hydra 70 rockets
5 in (127.0 mm) Zuni rockets

Air-to-air missiles:
4× AIM-9 Sidewinder or 4× AIM-132 ASRAAM or 4× IRIS-T or 4× AIM-120 AMRAAM, and
2× AIM-7 Sparrow or additional 2× AIM-120 AMRAAM
Air-to-surface missiles:
AGM-65 Maverick
Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM-ER)
AGM-88 HARM Anti-radiation missile (ARM)
AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW)
Taurus missile (Cruise missile)
Anti-ship missile:
AGM-84 Harpoon

JDAM Precision-guided munition (PGMs)
Paveway series of Laser guided bombs
Mk 80 series of unguided iron bombs
CBU-87 cluster
CBU-89 gator mine
Mk 20 Rockeye II
B61/Mk57 nuclear bombs

SUU-42A/A Flares/Infrared decoys dispenser pod and chaff pod or
Electronic countermeasures (ECM) pod or
AN/AAS-38 Nite Hawk Targeting pods (US Navy only), to be replaced by AN/ASQ-228 ATFLIR or
LITENING targeting pod (USMC, Royal Australian Air Force, Spanish Air Force, and Finnish Air Force only) or
up to 3× 330 US gallons (1,200 l; 270 imp gal) Sargent Fletcher drop tanks for ferry flight or extended range/loitering time.
OperatorsAustralia, Canada (CF-18 Hornet), Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain, Switzerland, USA
The United States Navy and Marine Corps prefer to use the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. The aircraft was originally developed by McDonnell Douglas but now Boeing is the manufacturer of this supersonic, all-weather and carrier-capable multirole jet fighter. The jet fighter also becomes the ride of the U.S. Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, since 1986.

The F/A-18 was designed to play some important roles i.e. as a dogfighter and ground attacker (hence the F/A designation comes which F/A stands for Fighter/Attack), fleet air defense, Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD), air interdiction, close air support and aerial reconnaissance.

Along with the US, some countries also rely on the F/A-18 as their air defense because of the fighter’s versatility and agility. Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain and Switzerland are the other operators of the F/A-18 Hornet.

Design and development history

In 1970s, the US Navy wanted to replace the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, the A-7 Corsair II, and the remaining McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs, and to complement the F-14 Tomcat. At the same time there was an Air Force’s program called Lightweight Fighter program which tried to develop a new jet fighter with smaller body yet agile and able to maintain air superiority. The program had two models: the General Dynamics YF-16 and Northrop YF-17. The YF-16 won the competition and later became the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The US Navy then took the YF-17 and afterwards, the prototype becomes the F/A-18 Hornet.

Northrop asked McDonnell Douglas to develop the F/A-18. Some modifications were made of the initial design of the YF-17. Finally, in 1977, the Hornet was born. The F/A-18 was fully designed for naval operations purpose. This twin-engine, mid wing, supersonic, highly maneuverable, all-weather, carrier-capable can perform multirole tactical missions.

The F/A-18 implements fly-by-wire system and powered by the innovative General Electric F404 engines which designed with operability, reliability and maintainability first allowing the F/A-18 to have low cost maintenance and reach a maximum speed of Mach 1.8. The jet fighter can carry various armaments such as air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, anti-ship missile, bombs, flares/Infrared decoys dispenser pod and chaff pod or Electronic countermeasures (ECM) pod and supplemented by the 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon. The F/A-18 Hornet was among the first aircraft to heavily implement multi-function displays that allow a pilot to perform either fighter or attack roles or both at a switch at a button.

The variants of the Hornet

  • F/A-18 A/B – The F/A-18A is the single-seat variant and the F/A-18B is the two-seat variant.
  • F/A-18C/D – The F/A-18C is the single-seat variant and the F/A-18D is the two-seat variant. The D-model can be converted for training or as an all-weather strike aircraft.
  • F/A-18E/F Super Hornet – The single-seat F/A-18E and two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornets carry over the name and design concept of the original F/A-18, but have been extensively redesigned. The Super Hornet has a new, 25% larger airframe, larger rectangular air intakes, more powerful GE F414 engines based on F/A-18’s F404.
  • F-18(R) – This was a proposed reconnaissance version of the F/A-18A.
  • RF-18D – Proposed two-seat reconnaissance version for the US Marine Corps in the mid-1980s.
  • TF-18A – Two-seat training version of the F/A-18A fighter.
  • F-18 HARV – Single-seat High Alpha Research Vehicle for NASA.
  • F-18L – This was a lighter land-based version of the F/A-18 Hornet.
  • (A)F/A-18A/B – Australian version of the F/A-18A/B. This variant was assembled in Australia.
  • CF-188A Hornet and CF-188B Hornet or CF-18A/B – These variants were designed specifically for Canadian Air Force.
  • EF-18A/B Hornet – The EF-18A (C.15) is single-seat fighter/attack version for the Spanish Air Force. The EF-18B (CE.15) is the two-seat training version for the Spanish Air Force.
  • KAF-18 Hornet – The KAF-18C is Ssngle-seat fighter/attack version for the Kuwait Air Force and the KAF-18D is Two-seat training version for the Kuwait Air Force.
  • F-18C/D Hornet – F/A-18C/D Hornets for Finnish Air Force.
  • F-18C/D Hornet – The versions for the Switzerland.

The F/A-18 Hornet videos

Schweizer Luftwaffe McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet

Finnish Air Force F-18 Hornet solo display

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