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The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet is an American supersonic multirole jet made to replace the A-6 Intruder and the A-7 Corsair in the attack role and the F-14 Tomcat in the fighter role, being criticized in the last role, the F-14 Tomcat was finally replaced in 2008 by the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, an improved version of the F/A-18.


YF-17 Cobra, the prototype that gave birth on the F/A-18 Hornet

The F/A-18 Hornet was designed from the YF-17 Cobra. The Cobra was Northrup's entry into the US Air Force's Lightweight Fighter Program. However, the F-16 Fighting Falcon was chosen over the Cobra mostly for the cost of two engines rather than one. The Navy, nevertheless, liked the Cobra's design, and wanted a carrier capable fighter based on the YF-17. The result was the F/A-18 Hornet.


The F/A-18C Hornet is a single-seat, carrier-capable, multirole strike fighter. When the Hornet was first being built, it was originally supposed to be two aircraft: the F-18 Hornet, a fighter, and the A-18 Hornet, an attacker. The term F/A-18 was used to refer to both at the same time. However, the designers later decided to combine the two into one aircraft that could perform both roles, and the name F/A-18 stuck.

F/A-18 with unguided bombs under his hardpoints

With it's entry into service with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, the F/A-18C has replaced older, single role machines like the A-4 Skyhawk, A-7E Corsair II, and F-4 Phantom II. The F/A-18's combat debut was over Libya in 1986 during Operation El Dorado Canyon, later during Operation Desert Storm the F/A-18C performed round-the-clock day and night sorties with great success, despite the loss of two F/A-18s. U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Hornets have been continuously used in Operation Southern Watch and in the Bosnia and Kosovo campaigns in the 1990s. Hornets and the newest models, the Super Hornets, have been used in Operation Enduring Freedom and in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The F/A-18C and twin-seat 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 AMRAAM air-to-air missile and AGM-65 Maverick and AGM-84 Harpoon air-to-surface missiles.

Malaysian  F/A-18D

Other upgrades include the Martin-Baker NACES (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 Loral AN/AAS-38 Night Hawk FLIR (forward looking infrared array) targeting pod, night vision goggles, and two full-color (previously monochrome) MFDs and a color moving map.



CF-18 Hornet of the Canadian Air Force




United States


General Characteristics

  • Crew: F/A-18C: 1, F/A-18D

    F/A-18 Hornet launching flares

    : 2 (pilot and weapons system officer)
  • Length: 56 ft (17.1 m)
  • Wingspan: 40 ft (12.3 m)
  • Height: 15 ft 4 in (4.7 m)
  • Wing area: 400 ft² (38 m²)
  • Airfoil: NACA 65A005 mod root, 65A003.5 mod tip
  • Empty weight: 23,000 lb (10,400 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 36,970 lb (16,770 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 51,900 lb (23,500 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2× General Electric F404-GE-402 turbofan
    • Dry thrust: 11,000 lbf (48.9 kN) each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 17,750 lbf (79.2 kN) each


  • Maximum speed: Mach 1.8 (1,190 mph, 1,915 km/h) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m)
  • Range: 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)
  • Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,240 m)
  • Rate of climb: 50,000 ft/min (254 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 93 lb/ft² (454 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.96



  • Hughes APG-73 radar
  • ROVER (Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver) antenna for use by US Navy's F/A-18C strike fighter squadrons
  • Inertial navigation system
  • GPS
  • Two mission computers
  • HUD cockpit dislay
  • Very High Frequency omni-directional landing system
  • Multiple-functioning Cathode ray tube display

Related Development

Comparable Aircraft

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