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F/A-18 Hornet

The F/A-18 is an impressive 2-engine multi-role supersonic fighter jet and a attack aircraft for usage from aircraft carriers and conventional air bases. The primary tasks of the hornet are air superiority, fighter escort, suppression of enemy air defence, reconnaissance, forward air control (FAC) and day and night attack missions. The USA F/A-18 can be equipped with AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-7 Sparrow, AIM-120 AMRAAM, Harpoon, AGM-88 HARM, AGM-84 SLAM, SLAM-ER, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW), Joint Direct Attack Ammunitions (JDAM), several general purpose bombs, mines and rockets. The newest version (Super Hornet) has a improved AIM-9 missile and can also use laser guided paveway bombs.

The F/A-18 was developed to support the F-14 Tomcat aircraft onboard of United States Navy aircraft carriers. The hornet pilot can do air-to-air combats and air-to-surface combats by simply pushing a button in the cockpit.

The Hornet is further development of the YF-17 which was a prototype from the project of the development of the F-16. Years ago, Iran has offered to share the development costs of the F-18. This came never true.


There exist the following F/A-18 versions:
a) F/A-18A and C single seater
b) F/A-18B and D doubleseaters. B models are mainly used for training, D model for operational purposes.
c) F/A-18
E and F (Super Hornet)
d) EA-18G Growler Attack aircraft only for electronic warfare.

There have been manufactured more than 400 F/A-18 A and B Hornets. The F/A-18C and D are having instead of the A and B model better opportunities by night attack, precision bombing, lower recognition by radar. About 2010 the US Navy will probably replace EA-6B Prowler by the F/A-18G "Growler" a modified F/A-18E/F. The Growler is for the Electronic warfare.


F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
The Super Hornet was developed as a result of the success of the hornet. It will replace the F-14D Tomcat and the older C/D Hornets.
The advanced F/A-18E and F Super Hornet in comparison to their predecessors; they can fly longer, have a larger fuel tank, lower fuel use (Thrust Specific Fuel Consumption), larger wings, 2 more pylons for bombs, they can carry the most advanced bombs like JDAM. The Super hornet has also a larger bring back capacity.

The aircraft has a 25% larger wing surface then the normal hornet, 42% less components, a larger range, more payload, powerful engine with a larger intern fuel capacity. It was made for a life cycle of 6000 hours.

The first delivery of the Super hornet for the United States Navy started in 2002 an the first operational mission of the super hornet where flown from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz by the VFA-14 and VFA-41 squadron. The Hornet has supported missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The US Navy has 484 Super Hornets on order. The Super Hornet is also in service with the Australian Air Force to fulfill the gap until the F-35 arrives.

The Super hornet is quipped with the Raytheon AN/APG-79 AESA Radar, ATFLIR, Forward-looking infrared targeting pod, AN/ALE-50 towed decoy, laser-guided weapons such as the Paveway and JSOW.

In 2011, Boeing unveiled new options for the F/A-18, like the GE-141 Enhanced Performance engine.


Design organisation Boeing
Main secundary design organisations Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, GE
Production organisaton Boeing, St Louis, Missouri, VS
Primary task Attack / combat aircraft, fleet defence
Type aircraft 4th generation fighter jet
Length 60.3 ft. (18.5 meters)
Height 16 ft. (4.87 meters)
Wingspan 44.9 ft. (13.68 meters)
Wing surface  
Aspect ratio  
Sweep back  
Engines 2 x F414-GE-400 turbofan with afterburner
Thrust 22,000 pound (each engine without afterburner)
Weight (empty)  
Weight (start, maximum, MTOW) 66,000 pounds (29.932 kgs)
Weight (landing, maximum)  
Required runway length (start)  
Required runway length (landing)  
Cruise speed  
Maximum speed > Mach 1.8
Ceiling > 50.000 ft
Maximum range 2346 km or 3054 km with 3 extern fuel tanks
Fuel capacity  
Air-to-air-refueling capability   Yes
Passengers none
Payload none
Armament Possible combination of:

- 1 standard M61A1/A2 Vulcan 20mm canon
- AIM-9 Sidewinder
- AIM-9X
- AIM-7 Sparrow
- Harpoon
- Harm
- AGM-65 Maverick missiles
- Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW)
- Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM)
- paveway Laser Guided Bombs
- various general purpose bombs
- mines
- rockets
Maximum weapon load  
Maximum G resistance  
Radar AN/APG-79 AESA
Type flight controls Fly-by-wire
Landing gear Triangulated
Versions F/A-18E, F/A-18F, EA-18G
Manufactured 304 of the 484 (US Navy)
Crew 1 (F/A-18E), 2 (F/A-18F)
Costs 53.8 million dollar
Overall flight hours  
First flight 29 November 1995 (E)
1 april 1996 (F)
First delivery 18 december 1998
Operational since december 2000
Successor of F-14D Tomcat, F/A-18C/D Hornet
Replaced by F-35C (planned)
Comparable aircraft  
Operators (current and future) United States, Australia
Main operators United States Navy
Amphibious usage Yes
Status In operational service

Film: F/A-18E takeoff from aircraft carrier, first testing his primary flight control (spoilers, horizontal stabilo and rudder), halfway the movie a EA-6B taxies in front

United States Marines Corps
The United States Marine Corps (USMC) has about 168 Hornets in the F/A-18A, F/A-18C and F/A-18CN Hornet version. These are primary used to
intercept and destroy enemy aircraft under all-weather conditions and attack and destroy surface targets.

Production planning

  2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 Total
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet 23 18 17 22 - 80
E/A-17G Growler 22 22 10 - - 54
F/A-18F F/A-18F F/A-18E
F/A-18E F/A-18F  
Blue Angels F/A-18A USN F/A-18A  

F/A-18 in other countries
The F/A-18 is also in service with the air forces of: Australia, Canada, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain, Swiss and Finland.

The Australian Air Force has 71 F/A-18A/B hornet fighter jets. Australia used them during the opening of Operation Iraqi Freedom (war against Iraq in 2003).


The Canadian Air Force was the first foreign customer of the F/A-18 Hornet and has the largest fleet of Hornets after the USA. These hornets are designated with CF/A-18 Hornet.


The Air Force of Kuwait has 40 F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets.

The Air Force of Kuwait has 8 F/A-18D Hornet fighter jets.

In the beginning, the Spanish Air Force purchased 72 F/A-18 Hornets of which 60 A-versions and 12 B-versions. At the moment, it has 81 F/A-18A/B Hornets and 24 F/A-18C Hornet fighter jets.

Spanje Spanje Spanje

Spain has some F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets stationed on the airport (or airbase) on the back of the civil airport of Las Palmas on the Island Gran Canaria). The fighter jets will probably be used for surveillance of the canarian islands.

The air force of Swiss has the ability of 26 F/A-18C and 7 F/A-18D Hornet fighter jets since the end of the 1990s. At the moment they are operational with the squadrons: Fliegerstaffel 11 (on Meiringen), Escadrille 17 (on Payerne) and Escadrille 18 (on Sion).



1. The Boeing Company
2. General Electric
2. United States Navy
4. United States Marine Corps
5. Royal Australian Air Force
6. Royal Canadian Air Force
7. Swiss Air Force
8. Spanish Air Force

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Last updated: 1 April 2018