- F/A-18 Hornet
name= F/A-18 Hornet
caption= A USMC F/A-18 in flight
type= Multirole fighter
national origin =
McDonnell Douglas/ Boeing Northrop
18 November 1978
7 January 1983
number built= >1,458
United States Navy
United States Marine Corps
Royal Australian Air Force
Spanish Air Force
unit cost=US$41 million in 2008Fact|date=April 2008
variants with their own articles=
CF-18 Hornet F/A-18E/F Super Hornet High Alpha Research Vehicle
McDonnell Douglas(now Boeing) F/A-18 Hornet is an all-weather carrier-capable strike fighterjet, designed to attack both ground and aerial targets. Designed in the 1970s for service with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, the Hornet is also used by the air forces of several other nations. It has been the aerial demonstration aircraft for the U.S. Navy's Blue Angelssince 1986. Its primary missions are fighter escort, fleet air defense, suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD), interdiction, close air supportand reconnaissance. Its versatility and reliability have proven it to be a valuable carrier asset, though it has been criticized for its lack of range and payload compared to its contemporaries.
F/A-18E/F Super Hornetis a distinct, evolutionary upgrade to the F/A-18 designed to serve a complementary role with Hornets in the U.S. Navy.cite web | last = U.S. Navy | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = F/A18-E/F Super Hornet ....Leading Naval Aviation into the 21st Century | work = | publisher = U.S. Navy| date= | url = http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/aircraft/fa18/shornet2.html | archiveurl = http://web.archive.org/web/20060228091445/http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/aircraft/fa18/shornet2.html | archivedate=2006-02-28 | format = | doi = | accessdate = 2008-07-04]
Development of the F/A-18 came as a result of the U.S. Navy's Naval Fighter-Attack, Experimental (
VFAX) program to procure a multirole aircraft to replace the A-4 Skyhawk, the A-7 Corsair II, remaining F-4 Phantom IIs and to complement the F-14 Tomcat. Vice Admiral Kent Lee, then head of Naval Air Systems Command(NAVAIR), was the lead advocate for the VFAX against strong opposition from many Navy officers, including Vice Admiral William D. Houser, deputy chief of naval operations for air warfare - the highest ranking naval aviator. Kelly, Orr. "Hornet: the Inside Story of the F/A-18". Novato, California: Presido Press, 1990. ISBN 0-89141-344-8.]
In August 1973, Congress mandated that the Navy pursue a lower-cost alternative to the F-14.
Grummanproposed a stripped F-14 designated the F-14X, while McDonnell Douglasproposed a navalized F-15, but both were nearly as expensive as the F-14.Jenkins 2000, p. 19-21.] That summer, Secretary of DefenseSchlesinger ordered the Navy to evaluate the competitors in the Air Force's Lightweight Fighter(LWF) program, the General DynamicsYF-16 and NorthropYF-17.cite web | last = | first = | title = F/A-18 Hornet and F/A-18 Super Hornet | work = | publisher = U.S. Navy | date= | url = http://www.history.navy.mil/planes/fa18.htm | accessdate = 2008-07-04] The Air Force competition specified a day fighter with no strike capability. In May 1974, the House Armed Services Committee redirected $34 million from the VFAX to a new program, the Navy Air Combat Fighter (NACF), intended to make maximum use of the technology developed for the LWF program.
Redesigning the YF-17
Though the YF-16 won the LWF competition, the Navy was skeptical that an aircraft with one engine and narrow landing gear could be easily or economically adapted to carrier service, and refused to adopt an F-16 derivative. The Navy fought for and won permission to develop an aircraft based on the YF-17. Since the LWF did not share the design requirements of the VFAX, the Navy asked McDonnell Douglas and Northrop to design a new aircraft around the configuration and design principles of the YF-17. The new aircraft, designated the F-18, shared not a single essential dimension or primary structure with the YF-17. Secretary of the Navy W. Graham Claytor announced on
1 March 1977that the name of the aircraft would be "Hornet".
Northrop had enlisted the aid of McDonnell Douglas as a secondary contractor on the NACF proposal to capitalize on the latter's extensive experience in building carrier aircraft, including the highly successful
F-4 Phantom II. On the F-18, the two companies agreed to split the parts manufacture evenly, with McDonnell Douglas completing the final assembly, representing ~20% of the work. McDonnell Douglas built the wings, stabilators, and forward fuselage; Northrop built the center and aft fuselage and vertical stabilizers. McDonnell Douglas was the prime contractor for the naval versions. Northrop would become the prime contractor and take over final assembly for the F-18L land-based version which Northrop hoped to sell on the export market.
The F-18, initially known as McDonnell Douglas Model 267, was drastically modified from the YF-17 while retaining the same basic configuration. For carrier operations, the airframe, undercarriage, and arrestor hook were strengthened, folding wings and catapult attachments were added, and the landing gear widened.Jenkins 2000, p. 22-26.] To meet Navy range and reserves requirements, McDonnell increased fuel capacity by convert|4460|lb|kg|sigfig=3|abbr=off, with the enlargement of the dorsal spine and the addition of a 96 gallon fuel cell to each wing (the YF-17 had dry wings). Most visibly, a "snag" was added to the leading edge of the wings and stabilators to prevent a flutter discovered in the F-15 stabilator. The wings and stabilators were enlarged, the aft fuselage widened by convert|4|in|mm|sigfig=3|abbr=off, and the engines canted outward at the front. These changes added convert|10000|lb|kg|sigfig=3|abbr=on to the gross weight, bringing it to convert|37000|lb|kg|sigfig=3|abbr=on. The computer-assisted control system of the YF-17 was replaced with a wholly digital fly-by-wire system with quadruple-redundancy, the first to be installed in a production fighter.
The original plan specified acquiring 780 total of three closely related models: the single seat F-18A fighter and A-18A attack aircraft, differing only in avionics, and the dual-seat TF-18A, which retained full mission capability of the F-18, except with a reduced fuel load. With redesign of the stores stations and improvements in avionics and multifunction displays, it became possible to combine the A-18A and F-18A into one aircraft. Starting in 1980, the aircraft began being referred to as the F/A-18A, and the designation was officially announced on
1 April 1984. The TF-18A was redesignated F/A-18B.
Northrop developed the F-18L as a potential export aircraft. Since it did not have to be strengthened for carrier service, it was expected to be lighter and better performing [ [http://home.att.net/~jbaugher4/f18_9.html Northrop F-18L ] ] , and a strong competitor to the
F-16 Fighting Falconthen being offered to American allies. The F-18L was lb to kg|7700 (approximately 30%) lighter than the F/A-18A, due to a lighter landing gear, removal of the wing folding mechanism, and reduced part thickness in areas. Though the aircraft retained a lightened arresting hook, the most obvious external difference was the removal of the "snags" on the leading edge of the wings and stabilators. It still retained 71% commonality with the F/A-18 by parts weight, and 90% of the high-value systems, including the avionics, radar, and ECM suite, though alternatives were offered. Unlike the F/A-18, the F-18L carried no fuel in its wings and lacked weapons stations on the intakes. It had three underwing pylons on each side instead.Jenkins 2000, p. 26-29.]
The partnership between the McDonnell Douglas and Northrop soured over competition for foreign sales for the two models. Northrop felt that McDonnell Douglas would put the F/A-18 in direct competition with the F-18L. In October 1979, Northrop filed a series of lawsuits charging that McDonnell was using Northrop technology developed for the F-18L for foreign sales in violation of their agreement, and asked for a moratorium on foreign sales of the Hornet via McDonnell Douglas. The case was resolved in 1985 when McDonnell agreed to pay Northrop $50 million for complete rights to the design, without any admission of wrongdoing. By then Northrop had ceased work on the F-18L, and most export orders were captured by the F-16 or the F/A-18.
During flight testing, the snag on the leading edge of the stabilators was filled in, and the gap between the
Leading edge extensions (LEX) and the fuselage mostly filled in. The gap, called the boundary layer air discharge (BLAD) slots, controlled the vortices generated by the LEX and presented clean air to the vertical stabilizers at high angles of attack. However, they also generated a great deal of parasitic drag, worsening the problem of the F/A-18's inadequate range. McDonnell filled in 80% of the gap, leaving a small slot to bleed airfrom the engine intake. This may have contributed to early problems with fatigue cracks appearing on the vertical stabilizers due to extreme aerodynamic loads, resulting in a momentary grounding in 1984 until the stabilizers were strengthened. Starting in May 1988, a small vertical fence was added to the top of each LEX to broaden the vortices and direct them away from the vertical stabilizers. This also provided a minor increase in controllability as a side effect.Jenkins 2000, p. 35.]
The first production F/A-18A flew on
12 April 1980. After a production run of 380 F/A-18As (including the nine assigned to flight systems development), manufacture shifted to the F/A-18C in September 1987.
The F/A-18 is a twin engine, mid-wing, multi-mission tactical aircraft. It is superbly maneuverable, owing to its good thrust to weight ratio, digital
fly-by-wirecontrol system, and leading edge extensions (LEX). The LEX allow the Hornet to remain controllable at high angles of attack. This is because the LEX produce powerful vortices over the wings, creating turbulent airflow over the wings and thus delaying or eliminating the aerodynamic separation responsible for stall, allowing the Hornet's wings to generate lift several times the aircraft's weight, despite high angles of attack. The Hornet is therefore capable of extremely tight turns over a large range of speeds.
Canted vertical stabilizers are another distinguishing design element, and among the other design characteristics that enable the Hornet's excellent high angle-of-attack capability include oversized horizontal stabilators, oversized trailing edge flaps that operate as
flaperons, large full-length leading-edge flaps, and flight control computer programming that multiplies the movement of each control surface at low speeds and moves the vertical rudders inboard instead of simply left and right. The Hornet's normally high angle-of-attack performance envelope was put to rigorous testing and enhanced in the NASA F-18 High Alpha Research Vehicle(HARV). NASA used the F-18 HARV to demonstrate flight handling characteristics at high angle-of-attack (alpha) of 65-70 degrees using thrust vectoring vanes. [ [http://www.nasa.gov/centers/dryden/news/FactSheets/FS-002-DFRC.html F-18 High Alpha Research Vehicle (HARV) fact sheet] , NASA/Dryden Flight Research Center.] F/A-18 stabilators were also used as canards on NASA's F-15S/MTD.
The Hornet was among the first aircraft to heavily utilize
multi-function displays, which at the switch of a button allow the pilot to perform either fighter or attack roles or both. This "force multiplier" capability gives the operational commander more flexibility in employing tactical aircraft in a rapidly changing battle scenario. It was the first Navy aircraft to incorporate a digital multiplex avionics bus, enabling easy upgrades.cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = F/A-18 Hornet | work = | publisher = Federation of American Scientists | date= | url = http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ac/f-18.htm | format = | doi = | accessdate = 2008-07-04]
The Hornet is also notable for having been designed with maintenance in mind, and as a result has required far less downtime than its heavier counterparts, the
F-14 Tomcatand the A-6 Intruder. Its mean time between failure is three times greater than any other Navy strike aircraft, and requires half the maintenance time. For example, whereas replacing the engine on the A-4 Skyhawkrequired removing the aircraft's tail, the engine on the Hornet is attached at only three points and can be directly removed without excessive disassembly. An experienced maintenance crew can remove and replace an F/A-18 engine in only a couple of hours.
General ElectricF404-GE-400 or F404-GE-402 engines powering the Hornet were also innovative in that they were designed with operability, reliability, and maintainability first. The result is an engine that, while unexceptional on paper in terms of rated performance, demonstrates exceptional robustness under a variety of conditions and is resistant to stall and flameout. By contrast, the Pratt & Whitney TF30engines that originally powered the F-14A were notoriously prone to compressor stall and flameout under certain flight conditions.
The engine air inlets of the Hornet, like that of the F-16, are "fixed", while those of the F-4, F-14, and F-15 have variable geometry or variable ramp engine air inlets. The variable geometry enables high-speed aircraft to keep the velocity of the air reaching the engine below supersonic. This is one speed limiting factor in the Hornet design. Instead, the Hornet uses bleed air vents on the inboard surface of the engine air intake ducts to slow and reduce the amount of air reaching the engine. While not as effective as variable geometry, the bleed air technique functions well enough to achieve near Mach 2 speeds, which is within the designed mission requirements. The less sophisticated design is also more robust.
NASAvideo of a F/A-18A aerial refuelingoperation, documenting behavior of the drogue basket.]
Because it was designed as a light multirole aircraft to complement the specialized F-14 and A-6 airframes, it had a relatively low internal
fuel fraction. That is, its internal fuel capacity is small relative to its take-off weight, at around 23%. Most aircraft of its class have a fuel fraction between .30 to .35. This situation was exacerbated by the addition of new avionics over its lifespan, further reducing the fuel fraction. This lead to 330-gallon external tanks being a common sight on F/A-18s, with the centerline and inner wings stations (numbered 3, 5 and 7) being plumbed to transfer fuel.
In the 1990s, the US Navy faced the need to replace its aging
A-6 Intruders, EA-6 Prowlers, A-7 Corsair IIs and F-14 Tomcats without proper replacements in development. To answer this deficiency, the Navy had the F/A-18E/F Super Hornetdeveloped. Despite its designation, it is not an upgrade of the F/A-18 Hornet, but rather, a new, larger airframe utilizing the design concepts of the Hornet. Hornets and Super Hornets will serve complementary roles in the US Navy carrier arsenal, until the deployment of the F-35C Lightning II, which will primarily replace F/A-18A-D Hornets.
Entry into service
McDonnell Douglas rolled out the first F/A-18A on
13 September 1978, [http://www.mdc.com/defense-space/military/fa18/fa18_milestones.htm F/A-18 Hornet Milestones] , Boeing, accessed 2007-03-17.] in blue-on-white colors marked with "Navy" on the left and "Marines" on the right. Its first flight was on 18 November. In a break with tradition, the Navy pioneered the "principal site concept" with the F/A-18, where almost all testing was done at NAS Pax River, instead of near the site of manufacture, and involving Navy test pilots instead of contractor pilots much earlier in the process.
In March 1979, Lt Cdr John Padgett became the first Navy pilot to fly the F/A-18.Jenkins 2000, p. 29.] In all, nine F/A-18As and two F/A-18Bs were assigned to flight systems development.
Following trials and operational testing by VX-4 and VX-5, Hornets began to fill the Fleet Replacement Squadrons (FRS)
VFA-125, VFA-106, and VMFAT-101, where pilots are introduced to the F/A-18. The Hornet entered operational service with Marine Corps squadron VMFA-314at MCAS El Toroon 7 January 1983, and with Navy squadron VFA-113in March 1983, replacing F-4s and A-7Es, respectively.
The initial fleet reports were complimentary, indicating that the Hornet was extraordinarily reliable, a major change from its predecessor, the F-4J. Other squadrons that switched to F/A-18 are
VFA-146"Blue diamonds", and VFA-147"Argonauts". In January 1985, the VFA-131Wildcats moved from Naval Air Station Lemoore to Naval Air Station Cecil Field, Florida, and became the Atlantic Fleet’s first F/A-18 squadron.
The US Navy's
Blue Angelsaerobatic team switched to the F/A-18 Hornet in 1986, when it replaced the A-4 Skyhawk. The Blue Angels perform in F/A-18A and B models at air shows and other special events across the US and worldwide. Blue Angels pilots must have 1,350 hours and an aircraft carrier certification. The two-seat B model is typically used to give rides to VIPs, but can also fill in for other aircraft in the squadron in a normal show if the need arises.
The F/A-18 first saw combat action in April 1986, when VFA-131 Hornets from USS "Coral Sea" flew SEAD missions against Libyan air defenses during Operation Prairie Fire and an attack on
Benghazias part of Operation El Dorado Canyon.Jenkins 2000.]
During the first
Gulf War, two U.S. Navy F/A-18s were destroyed with the loss of their pilots. On 17 January 1991, the first day of the war, Lieutenant Commander Scott Speicherof VFA-81was shot down and remains listed as missing in action. The other F/A-18, piloted by Lieutenant Robert Dwyer (who was officially listed as killed in action), was lost over the North Persian Gulf after a successful mission to Iraq.
F/A-18 pilots were credited with two kills during the Gulf War, both MiG-21s. [ Miller, David. "The Illustrated Directory of Modern Weapons". St. Paul, Minnesota: MBI Publishing Company, 2002. ISBN 0-7603-1346-6.] On the first day of the war, U.S. Navy pilots Lieutenant Nick Mongilio and Lieutenant Commander (now Rear Admiral) Mark Fox were sent from the USS "Saratoga" in the
Red Seato bomb an airfield in southwestern Iraq. While enroute, they were warned by an E-2C of approaching MiG-21 aircraft. The Hornets shot down two MiGs and resumed their bombing run, each carrying four 2,000 lb bombs, before returning to "Saratoga". Mongilio and Fox become the first pilots to register air-to-air kills while still completing their original air-to-ground mission. The Hornet's survivability was demonstrated when a Hornet took hits in both engines and flew convert|125|mi|km|abbr=on back to base. It was repaired and flying within a few days. Overall during the Gulf War, F/A-18s flew 4,551 sorties with ten Hornets damaged including the two losses previously mentioned.Jenkins 2000, p. 72.]
A-6 Intruderwas retired in the 1990s, its role was filled by the F/A-18. The F/A-18 demonstrated its versatility and reliability during Operation Desert Storm, shooting down enemy fighters and subsequently bombing enemy targets with the same aircraft on the same mission. It broke records for tactical aircraft in availability, reliability, and maintainability.
Both U.S. Navy F/A-18A/C models and Marine F/A-18A/C/D models were used continuously in
Operation Southern Watchand over Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s. U.S. Navy Hornets flew in Operation Enduring Freedomfrom carriers operating in the North Arabian Sea. Both the F/A-18A/C and newer F/A-18E/F variants were used in Operation Iraqi Freedom, operating from aircraft carriers. Later in the conflict USMC A+, C, and primarily D models operated from bases within Iraq. An F/A-18C was accidentally downed in a Friendly Fireincident by a Patriot missileearly in the conflict, and two others collided over Iraq in May 2005. In January 2007, two Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets collided in mid-air and crashed in the Persian Gulf. [http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/01/07/world/main3683082.shtml] On June 13, 2008, an F/A-18C Hornet collided with an F-5 Tigerover northern Nevada's high desert, killing its pilot. Both pilots of the F-5 were injured, but managed to parachute to safety. [Associated Press. [http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/061408dnnatnavy.35401ef.html "Navy: Pilot killed in jet collision over Nevada"] , "Dallas News", 13 June 2008.]
Though Navy aircraft have not historically sold well on the export market, the F/A-18 has been purchased and is in operation with a number of foreign air services. Export Hornets are typically similar to U.S. models of a similar manufacture date. Since none of the customers operate aircraft carriers, all export models have been sold without the automatic carrier landing system, and Royal Australian Air Force further removed the catapult attachment on the nose gear. Except for Canada, all export customers purchased their Hornets through the U.S. Navy, via the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Program, where the Navy acts as the purchasing manager but incurs no financial gain or loss. Canada ordered its planes directly from the manufacturer.
Royal Australian Air Forcepurchased 57 F/A-18A fighters and 18 F/A-18B two-seat trainers, with 71 in service, and 4 lost to crashes. [cite web | last = Crick | first = Darren | coauthors =
title = ADF Aircraft Serial Numbers RAAF A21 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A/B Hornet | work = | publisher = | date= | url = http://www.adf-serials.com/3a21.shtml | format = | doi = | accessdaymonth = 31 December | accessyear=2006] The first F/A-18 was delivered to the RAAF on
October 29 1984. The fleet is expected to be retired by 2015, replaced by the F-35 Lightning II.cite web | last = Nelson | first = Brendan | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Joint Strike Fighter | work = Media Release | publisher = Defence Ministers & Parliamentary secretary | date= 2007-02-01 | url = http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/NelsonMintpl.cfm?CurrentId=6341 | format = | doi = | accessdate = 2008-07-04] cite web | last = Nelson | first = Brendan | coauthors = | title = $6 Billion to maintain Australia's regional air superiority | work = Media Release | publisher = Defence Ministers & Parliamentary secretary | date= 2007-03-06 | url = http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/NelsonMintpl.cfm?CurrentId=6437 | format = | doi = | accessdate = 2008-07-04]
In 2001, Australia deployed four aircraft to
Diego Garcia, in an air defense role, during coalition operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan. In 2003, 75 Squadron deployed 14 F/A-18s to Qatar as part of Operation Falconer.cite journal|last=Holmes|first=Tony|date=2006|title=RAAF Hornets at War|journal=Australian Aviation|publisher=Phantom Media|location=Canberra|issue=January/February 2006/No. 224|issn=08130876|pages=p.38]
Canada was the first export customer for the Hornet, replacing the CF-104 Starfighter (air reconnasissance & strike), the CF-101 Voodoo (air interception) and the CF-116 Freedom Fighter (ground attack). The
Canadian Forces Air Commandordered 98 A-models (Canadian designation CF-188A/CF-18A) and 40 B models (designation CF-188B/CF-18B).
In 1991, Canada committed 26 CF-18s to the Gulf War, based in Qatar. In June 1999, with 18 CF-18s were deployed to Aviano AB, Italy, and they participated in both the air-to-ground and air-to-air roles in the former Yugoslavia.
The fighters are undergoing an avionics and structural upgrade program to extend service to 2020, upgrading F-18A and F-18B to F/A-18C and D standard. A total of 80 CF-18s, consisting of 62 single-seat and 18 dual-seat models were selected from the fleet for the upgrade program. As of 2003, Canada has 123 in service with 15 losses.Senior, Tim. "F/A-18 Hornet, The AirForces Monthly book of", AirForces Monthly, 2003. ISBN 0-946219-69-9.]
Finnish Air Force("Suomen Ilmavoimat") ordered 64 F-18C/Ds. Delivery started on June 7 1995. The Hornet replaced the MiG-21bis and Saab 35 Drakenin Finnish service. One fighter was destroyed in a mid-air collision in 2001.
The Finnish F-18C includes the ASPJ (Airborne-Self-Protection-Jammer) jamming Pod ALQ-165 that was canceled on original US Navy orders. The US Navy later included the ALQ-165 on their Super Hornet (F-18E/F) procurement. The Finnish Hornets were initially to be used only for air defense, hence the designation F-18.
Finland is upgrading its fleet of F-18s with new avionics, including helmet mounted sights (HMS), new cockpit displays, sensors and standard
NATO data link. A number of the 63 Hornets remaining are going to be fitted to carry air-to-ground ordnance such as the AGM-154C JSOW, in effect returning to the original F/A-18 multi-role configuration. The upgrade includes also the procurement and integration of new AIM-9X Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles. This Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) is estimated to cost between €1-1.6 billion and work is scheduled to be finished by 2015. After the upgrades the planes are to remain in active service til 2020-2025. [ [http://www.hs.fi/kotimaa/artikkeli/Hornetien+uudistuksesta+j%C3%A4ttikulut/1135239891786 Helsingin Sanomat] ] [ [http://www.hs.fi/kotimaa/artikkeli/Ministeri%C3%B6+kiisti+ilmavoimien+arvion+Hornetien+remontista/1135239921613 Helsingin Sanomat] ]
Kuwait Air Force("Al Quwwat Aj Jawwaiya Al Kuwaitiya")] has 32 F/A-18C and F/A-18D Hornets. These aircraft were pre-ordered before the Iraqi invasion of August 1990. Delivery of the fighters started on 8 October 1991. The F/A-18C/Ds replaced A-4KU Skyhawk.
Royal Malaysian Air Force("Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia") has eight F/A-18Ds.cite web | title = Boeing Delivers Malaysian Hornets on Schedule | publisher = Boeing | date = 1997-09-09 | url = http://www.mdc.com/defense-space/military/fa18/news/1997/news_release_970909q.html | accessdate = 2008-07-04]
Spanish Air Force("Ejército del Aire") ordered 60 EF-18A model and 12 EF-18B model Hornets (the "E" standing for "España", Spain), named respectively as C.15 and CE.15 by Spanish AF. Delivery of the Spanish version started on November 22 1985. Currently all of these planes have been upgraded to F-18A+/B+ standard, close to F/A-18C/D (plus version includes later mission and armament computers, databuses, data-storage set, new wiring, pylon modifications and software, new capabilities as AN/AAS-38B NITE Hawk targeting FLIR pods).
In 1995 Spain obtained 24 ex-USN F/A-18A Hornets, with six more on option. The first six were delivered in December 1995. Prior to delivery, they were modified with F404 engines and other Spanish-specified modifications. This was the first sale of USN surplus Hornets.
Spanish Hornets operate as a all-weather interceptor 60% of the time and as an all-weather day/night attack airplane for the remainder. In case of war, each of the front-line squadrons would take a primary role: 121 is tasked with tactical air support and maritime operations; 151 and 122 are assigned to all-weather interception and air combat roles; and 152 is assigned the
SEADmission. Air refueling is provided by KC-130Hs and Boeing 707TTs. Pilot conversion to EF-18 is centralized in 153 Squadron (Ala 15). Squadron 462's role is air defense of Canary Island, being responsible for fighter and attack missions from Gando AB.
Six of the Spanish Hornets have been lost. Spanish Air Force EF-18s Hornet have flown Ground Attack, SEAD,
CAPcombat missions in Bosnia and Kosovo, under NATO command, in Aviano detachment (Italy). They shared the base with Canadian and USMC F/A-18s.
Switzerland's "Luftwaffe" purchased 26 C models and 8 D models. One D model was lost in a crash. Delivery of the aircraft started on 25 January 1996.
In late 2007 Switzerland requested to be included in F/A-18C/D Upgrade 25 Program, in order to extend the useful life of its F/A-18C/Ds. The program includes significant upgrades to the avionics and mission computer, 20 ATFLIR surveillance and targeting pods, and 44 sets of AN/ALR-67v3 ECM equipment. Switzerland is interested in acquiring 8-11 more F/A-18 Hornets to replace retired Mirages.Fact|date=April 2008
The F/A-18C and F/A-18D were considered by the French "Marine Nationale" during the 1980s for deployment on their aircraft carriers "Clemenceau" and "Foch"Tillman Barrett. "MiG Master: Story of the F-8 Crusader" (second edition). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1990. ISBN 0-87021-585-X.] and again in the 1990s for the later nuclear-powered "Charles de Gaulle",Donald, David. "Carrier Aviation Air Power Directory". London: AIRtime Publishing Inc, 2001, p. 122. ISBN 1-880588-43-9.] in the event that the Dassault Rafale M was not brought into service when originally planned.
Austria, [http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/military/fa18/news/mdc/96-310.html "Philippine Pilots Complete F/A-18 HORNET Flight Evaluation"] , McDonnell Douglas, December 11, 1996.] Chile, Czech Republic, Hungary, Philippines, Poland, and Singaporeevaluated the Hornet but did not purchase it. Thailandordered four C and four D model Hornets but the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s resulted in the order being canceled. The U.S. DoD then purchased the in-production Hornets for the Marine Corps.
The never-produced land-based F-18L version was offered to
Greecein the 1980s and was chosen by the Greek air force, but the Greek government chose F-16and Mirage 2000instead. [ [http://forum.keypublishing.co.uk/showthread.php?t=68040 F/A-18 E/F FOR GREECE? - Key Publishing Ltd Aviation Forums] ] Verify source|date=July 2008
The F/A-18A is the single-seat variant and the F/A-18B is the two seat variant. The space for the two seat cockpit is provided by a relocation of avionic equipment and a 6% reduction in internal fuel; two-seat Hornets are otherwise fully combat-capable. The B model is used primarily for training.
In 1992, the original Hughes
AN/APG-65radar was replaced with the Hughes (now Raytheon) AN/APG-73, a faster and more capable radar. A model Hornets that have been upgraded to the AN/APG-73 are designated F/A-18A+.
The F/A-18C is the single-seat variant and the F/A-18D is the two seat variant. The D model can be configured for training or as an all-weather strike craft. The "missionized" D's rear seat is configured for a Weapons and Sensors Officer to assist in operating the weapons systems. The D model is primarily operated by the
U.S. Marine Corpsin the night attack and FAC(A) (Forward Air Controller (Airborne)) roles.Jenkins 2000, p. 64-66.] [ [http://fa18hornet.pbwiki.com/FrontPage fa18hornet wiki] ]
The F/A-18C and D models are the result of a block upgrade in 1987 incorporating upgraded radar, avionics, and the capacity to carry new missiles such as the
AIM-120 AMRAAMair-to-air missile and AGM-65 Maverickand AGM-84 Harpoonair-to-surface missiles. Other upgrades include the Martin-BakerNACES (Navy Aircrew Common Ejection Seat), and a self-protection jammer. A synthetic aperture ground mapping radar enables the pilot to locate targets in poor visibility conditions. C and D models delivered since 1989 also include an improved night attack capability, consisting of the Hughes AN/AAR-50 thermal navigation pod, the LoralAN/AAS-38 NITE Hawk FLIR(forward looking infrared array) targeting pod, night vision goggles, and two full-color (previously monochrome) MFDs and a color moving map.
In addition, 60 D model Hornets are configured as the night attack F/A-18D (RC) with ability for reconnaissance. These could be outfitted with the
ATARSelectro-optical sensor package that includes a sensor pod and equipment mounted in the place of the M61 cannon.Jenkins 2000, p. 66-70.]
Beginning in 1992, the F404-GE-402 enhanced performance engine, providing approximately 10% more maximum static thrust became the standard Hornet engine.Donald, David. "Boeing F/A-18 Hornet". "Warplanes of the Fleet". AIRtime Publishing Inc, 2004. ISBN 1-880588-81-1.] Since 1993, the AAS-38A NITE Hawk added a designator/ranger laser, allowing it to self-mark targets. The later AAS-38B added the ability to strike targets designated by lasers from other aircraft.Jenkins 2000, p. 61-62, 156.]
E/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, and upgraded avionics suite. The aircraft is currently in production and will eventually equip 22 squadrons. The
EA-18G Growleris an electronic warfare version of the two-seat F/A-18F, which entered production in 2007. The Growler will replace the Navy's EA-6B Prowler.
Other US variants
;F-18(R) : This was a proposed reconnaissance version of the F/A-18A. It included a sensor package that replaced the 20 mm cannon. The first of two prototypes flew in August 1984, however the variant was not produced.
;RF-18D : Proposed two-seat reconnaissance version for the US Marine Corps in the mid-1980s. It was to carry a radar reconnaissance pod. The system was canceled after it was unfunded in 1988. This capability was later realized on the F/A-18D(RC).
;F-18 HARV : Single-seat
High Alpha Research Vehiclefor NASA.Jenkins 2000, pp. 49-52.]
X-53 Active Aeroelastic Wing: A NASA F/A-18 has been modified to demonstrate the Active Aeroelastic Wing technology, and was designated X-53 in December 2006.
"These designations are not part of
1962 United States Tri-Service aircraft designation system."
;F-18L : This was a lighter land-based version of the F/A-18 Hornet. It was designed to be a single-seat air-superiority fighter and ground-attack aircraft. It was originally intended to be assembled by
Northropas the export version of the F/A-18 Hornet. The F-18L was lighter due to the removal of carrier landing capability. Despite the advantages, customers preferred the "ordinary" Hornet, and the F-18L never went into production.
* (A)F/A-18A: Single-seat fighter/attack version for the
Royal Australian Air Force.
* (A)F/A-18B: Two-seat training version for the Royal Australian Air Force. : "F/A-18A" was the original company designation, designations of "AF-18A" & "ATF-18A" have also been applied. Assembled in Australia (excluding the first two (A)F/A-18Bs) by Aero-Space Technologies of Australia (ASTA) from 1985 through to 1990, from kits produced by McDonnell Douglas with increasing local content in the later aircraft. Originally the most notable differences between an Australian (A)F/A-18A/B and a US F/A-18A/B were the lack of a catapult attachment, replacement of the carrier
tailhookfor a lighter "land" arresting hook, and the replacement of the automatic carrier landing system with an Instrument Landing System. Australian Hornets have been involved in a number of major upgrade programs. This program called HUG (Hornet Upgrade) has had a few evolutions over the years. The first was to give Australian Hornets F/A-18C model avionics. The second and current upgrade program (HUG 2.2) updates the fleet's avionics even further.
* CF-18A : Single-seat fighter/attack version for the
Canadian Forces. The Canadian Forces' official designation is CF-188A Hornet.
* CF-18B : Two-seat training version for the Canadian Forces. The Canadian Forces' official designation is CF-188B Hornet.
* EF-18A: Single-seat fighter/attack version for the
Spanish Air Force. The Spanish Air Force designation is C.15.
* EF-18B: Two-seat training version for the Spanish Air Force. The Spanish Air Force designation is CE.15.
* KAF-18C: Single-seat fighter/attack version for the
Kuwait Air Force.
* KAF-18D: Two-seat training version for the Kuwait Air Force.
Finnish Air Forceuses F/A-18C/D Hornets, with a Finland-specific mid-life update. The first 7 Hornets (D-models) were produced by McDonnell Douglas.Jenkins 2000, p. 100-101.] The 57 single-seat F-18C model units were assembled by Patria in Finland.Karivalo, Perttu: "Tomcat vs. Hornet: An Air Forces Monthly Special", p. 68. Key Publishing Ltd, 2003.]
*Switzerland uses F-18C/D,Nicholls, Mark: "Tomcat vs. Hornet: An Air Forces Monthly Special", p. 78. Key Publishing Ltd, 2003.] later Swiss specific mid-life update. The Swiss F-18s were originally without ground attack capability until hardware was retrofitted.
Royal Australian Air Force
Canadian Forces Air Command(see CF-18 Hornet)
Finnish Air Force
Karelian Air Command
Lapland Air Command
Satakunta Air Command
Kuwait Air Force
**No 25 Squadron, Ali Al Salem military air base
**No 4 Squadron, Ali Al Salem military air baseFact|date=April 2008
Royal Malaysian Air Force
Spanish Air Force
** Ala de Caza 15 (15th Fighter Wing) Zaragoza AB, with 30 A+ and six B+ shared between Squadrons 151, 152 and 153
** Ala de Caza 12, Torrejon AB (Squadron 121 and 122) with 30 A+ and six B+.
** Ala 46, Gando AB (Canary islands), with Squadron 462 operating 22 ex-US Navy F/A-18s. Yañez and Rodriguez 2008, p.23.]
Swiss Air Force
**17 Tactical Squadron, Payerne
**18 Tactical Squadron, Payerne
**11 Tactical Squadron, MeiringenFact|date=May 2008
United States Navy
United States Marine Corps
plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=jet
ref = U.S. Navy fact file, [http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=1100&tid=1200&ct=1 F/A-18 US Navy fact file] ] Aerospaceweb [ [http://www.aerospaceweb.org/aircraft/fighter/f18/ F/A-18 Hornet page on Aerospaceweb.org] ]
crew=F/A-18C: 1, F/A-18D: 2 (pilot and weapons system officer)
length main=56 ft
length alt=17.1 m
span main=40 ft
span alt=12.3 m
span more=with Sidewinders
height main=15 ft 4 in
height alt=4.7 m
area main=400 ft²
area alt=38 m²
airfoil=NACA 65A005 mod root, 65A003.5 mod tip
empty weight main=24,700 lb
empty weight alt=11,200 kg
loaded weight main=37,150 lb
loaded weight alt=16,850 kg
max takeoff weight main=51,550 lb
max takeoff weight alt=23,400 kg
General Electric F404-GE-402
type of jet=
number of jets=2
thrust main= 11,000 lbf
thrust alt= 48.9 kN
afterburning thrust main= 17,750 lbf
afterburning thrust alt= 79.2 kN
max speed main=Mach 1.8
max speed alt=1,190
mph, 1,915 km/h
max speed more=at 40,000 ft (12,190 m)
ceiling main=50,000 ft
ceiling alt=15,000 m
combat radius main=330 mi
combat radius alt=290 NM, 537 km
combat radius more=on hi-lo-lo-hi mission
ferry range main=2,070 mi
ferry range alt=1,800 NM, 3,330 km
ferry range more=
climb rate main=50,000 ft/min
climb rate alt=254 m/s
loading main=93 lb/ft²
loading alt=450 kg/m²
LITENINGtargeting pod (USMC only)
armament=*Guns: 1x 20 mm
M61 Vulcaninternal gatling gunwith 578 rounds
* Hardpoints: 9: 2 wingtip, 4 underwing, and 3 fuselage, carrying up to 13,700 lb (6,215 kg) of missiles, rockets, bombs, fuel tanks, and pods
AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-132 ASRAAM, AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-7 Sparrow, IRIS-T
AGM-45 Shrike, AGM-65 Maverick, AGM-88 HARM, SLAM-ER, JSOW, Taurus missile
**Bombs: CBU-87 cluster, CBU-89 gator mine, CBU-97,
Paveway, JDAM, Mk 80 series, B61/Mk57 nuclear bombs, [ [http://www.designation-systems.net/usmilav/nuke.html Designations of U.S. Nuclear Weapons] ] Mk 20 Rockeye II cluster, mines
Hornets make frequent appearances in action movies and military novels. The Hornet was featured in the film "Independence Day". The Hornet has a major role in Jane's "US Navy Fighters" (1994), Jane's "Fighters Anthology" (1997) and "Jane's F/A-18 Simulator" computer simulators.
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
X-53 Active Aeroelastic Wing
Dassault Mirage 2000
F-16 Fighting Falcon
JAS 39 Gripen
List of active United States military aircraft
List of fighter aircraft
4th generation jet fighter
* Baugher, Joseph. [http://www.airtoaircombat.com/detail.asp?id=12 "Boeing F/A-18C Hornet"] . Air to Air Combat.com,
April 11, 2000.
* Drendel, Lou. "F/A-18 Hornet in action" (Aircraft Number 136). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1993. ISBN 0-89747-300-0.
* Elward, Brad. "Boeing F/A-18 Hornet" (WarbirdTech, Vol. 31). Specialty Press, 2001. ISBN 1-58007-041-8.
* Gunston, Bill. "F/A-18 Hornet" (Modern Combat Aircraft 22). St. Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks International, 1985. ISBN 0-710-1485-X.
* Jenkins, Dennis R. "F/A-18 Hornet: A Navy Success Story". New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000. ISBN 0-07-134696-1.
* Miller, Jay. "McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet" (Aerofax Minigraph 25). Arlington, Texas: Aerofax Inc., 1988. ISBN 0-942548-39-6.
* Peacock, Lindsay. "F/A-18 Hornet" (Osprey Combat Aircraft Series). London: Osprey Publishing, 1986. ISBN 0-85045-707-6.
* Spick, Mike. "McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet" (Classic Warplanes). London, Salamander Books, 1991. ISBN 0-8317-1412-3.
* Vann, Frank. "McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet" (How They Work: Jet Fighter). New York: Exeter Books, 1988. ISBN 07917-0226-X.
* Yañez, Roberto and Rodriguez, Alex. "Spanish Hornets: Providing a Potent Sting". "
Air International", Volume 75 Number 2, August 2008. pp. 22—25.
* [http://www.news.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=1100&tid=1200&ct=1 F/A-18 Hornet U.S. Navy fact file] and [http://www.history.navy.mil/planes/fa18.htm F/A-18 Hornet Navy history page]
* [http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/military/fa18/index.htm F/A-18 Hornet page] and [http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/military/fa18ef/index.htm F/A-18E/F Super Hornet page on Boeing.com]
* [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/f-18.htm F/A-18 Hornet on GlobalSecurity.org]
* [http://www.vectorsite.net/avhorn_1.html F/A-18 Hornet pages on Vectorsite.net]
* [http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Air_Power/Hornet/AP45.htm F/A-18 Hornet U.S. Centennial of Flight web site]
* [http://www.ausairpower.net/bug.html F/A-18A Hornet page] and [http://www.ausairpower.net/SuperBug.html Flying the F/A-18F Super Hornet page on ausairpower.net]
* [http://www.fa18hornet.org/ List of US FA-18s by Bureau Number (BuNo) and disposition]
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