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Two Hornets seen from the back below

Two Australian Hornets in close formation


back to F/A-Hornet main

Martin Marauder

The F/A-18 Hornet is one of the most commonly used fighter aircraft of the world at present.
The F/A-18’s design goes back to the Northrop YF-17 Cobra, which was the rival of the F-16 in the Lightweight Fighter Competition of the U.S. Air Force in the late 1970ies. Because the Navy was sceptical about a naval version of the F-16, the F-17 was developed to become the F/A-18 as a carrier-based combined fighter/fighter-bomber. Even though it looks similar to the F-17 and shares it’s basic design, the F/A-18 has not a single part, which is the same as the F-17. The F/A-18 is notably bigger, with stronger engines as well as foldable wings and enforced landing gear for carrier operations. The maiden flight of the first F/A-18 Hornet was November 18th 1978.

The small YF-17 in a grey camouflage

The Northrop YF-17, predevelopment of the F/A-18 Hornet

A characteristic feature of the design of the F-18 are the big leading edge extensions or LEX’s forward of the wing, which allow flight at a very high angle of attack. The Hornet was one of the first fighter aircraft to use multi-function displays, which allowed it to be deployed both in a fighter role or attack role. That’s also the reason for the official designation F/A-18. It was also especially designed to allow easy maintenance. For example, the engines are connected in only three places and can be replaced within a matter of hours.
The F/A-18 entered service with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines in 1983, first replacing F-4 Phantom II’s, then A-7 Corsair II’s. In operation, the F-18 improved very reliable and easy to maintain. In 1986, the Navy demonstration team Blue Angels replaced their A-4 Skyhawks with F/A-18’s, and have been flying the F/A-18 until today, longer than any other aircraft before, first in the A-version, later in the C-version.

One of the F/A-18 prototypes during flight testing

Four B-26's in the three basic paint schemes

The F/A-18 was first used in Combat during the controversial 1986 attacks on Libya, and massively used during Operation Desert Storm, the first Persian Gulf war. During that war, the Hornet was used in over 4551 missions, with only two getting lost. It was also involved in the Attacks on Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990ies as well as on the second Persian Gulf War or Operation Enduring Freedom. American F/A-18 Hornets also played an important role in the 1996 motion picture Independence day as the aircraft flown during the final attacks against the Alien spacecraft.
The first Hornet two-seater

This was the first F/A-18 two-seater, originally designated TF-18A, then renamed to F-18B

Canada replaced its F-101 Voodoos, F-104 Starfighters and F-5 Freedom Fighters with F/A-18’s. Canadian Hornets took part both in the first gulf war as well as in the attacks on former Yugoslavia. Canada was also the first export customer for the F/A-18.
Australia ordered F/A-18 Hornets to replace its aging Mirage IIIs. The Australian Hornets have been deployed to Afghanistan in 2001 on air-defense missions. They were also deployed to Qatar in 2003 from where they took part in combat missions over Iraq.
The Finnish Air Force used the Hornet to replace the MiG-21’s and Saab Draken’s in its service, originally under the designation F-18, because they were meant to be used only for the fighter role. Later they were re-equipped to allow air-to-ground missions as well.

A F/A-18 loaded with ground attack ordnance Canadian Hornet carrying
Laser guided training bombs
The Spanish air force flies the Hornet in both roles, and the Spanish Hornets took part in missions to Bosnia, Kosovo and Yugoslavia. Kuwait operates 39 Hornets, which had been ordered already before the Iraqi invasion of 1990 and were delivered to the Kuwait Air Force while the liberation of Kuwait was in progress. Switzerland operates 34 F-18 Hornets since 1996. The smallest Operator of F/A-18 Hornets is Malaysia, which flies 8 two-seater D-models, which serve alongside MiG-29’s. The NASA uses a number of F/A-18’s that have been retired from Navy service in a number of roles, mostly as chase planes. One of the chase planes has been equipped with a telescope in the rear seat to observe the sky from higher altitudes, where the air is cleaner.
Other NASA versions were modified for test purposes, the F-18 AAW and F-18 HARV.
The design of the F/A-18 has been further developed to the F/A-18 E/F, which included a longer fuselage, bigger wings and LEX’s and modified air intakes.
The Blue Angels in intimate embrace

The Blue Angels have flown the Hornet longer than any plane before.

wingspan: 12.3m
length: 17.1m
height: 4.7m
empty weight: 11.200kg
max loaded weight: 23.400kg
maximum speed: 1.915km/h (=Mach 1,8)
range: 537km
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