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F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet

The F/A-18 Hornet is built for aircraft carrier duty and was the first tactical aircraft designed to carry out both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. As a fighter, and an attack aircraft, it is designated "F/A".

Designed by McDonnell Douglas (now part of Boeing) and Northrop (now part of Northrop Grumman), the F/A-18 was derived from the YF-17 in the 1970s for use by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

The U.S. Marines ordered it as an F-18 fighter and the Navy as an A-18 attack aircraft. It can switch roles easily and can also be adapted for photoreconnaissance and electronic countermeasure missions. The F/A-18 Hornet was also the first aircraft to have carbon fiber wings and the first tactical jet fighter to use digital fly-by-wire flight controls.

Variants include a two-seater, an improved fighter, a reconnaissance aircraft and a night-attack fighter. Hornets entered active duty in January 1983. It can also perform aerial refueling operations.

F/A-18 carrier launch operations
F/A-18 carrier launch operations (US Navy Photo)

The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet made its first flight in November of 1995. The Super Hornet is a low-observable aircraft that performs multiple missions, including air superiority, day-and-night strike with precision-guided weapons, fighter escort, and close air support. The Super Hornet is produced in the single-seat E model and the two-seat F model.

The F/A-18E/F is 25% larger than the original Hornet and has increased maneuverability, range, and payload, and more powerful engines. It entered operational service with the U.S. Navy in 1999.

In 2008, the E/A-18G Growler joined the Navy’s aircraft fleet. A Super Hornet derivative, the E/A-18G provides tactical jamming and electronic protection for U.S. and allied forces, delivering full-spectrum airborne electronic attack capability along with the targeting and self-defense capabilities of the Super Hornet.

The F/A-18 is also used by a number of Allied countries, such as Canada, Finland, Spain, Switzerland, Australia and others.

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels have flown the F/A-18 since November of 1986.

General Characteristics, C and D models

  • Date Deployed: November 1978. Operational - October 1983 (A/B models); September 1987 (C/D models).
  • Propulsion: Two F404-GE-402 enhanced performance turbofan engines. 17,700 pounds static thrust per engine.
  • Length: 56 feet (16.8 meters).
  • Height: 15 feet 4 inches (4.6 meters).
  • Wingspan: 40 feet 5 inches (13.5 meters).
  • Weight: Maximum Take Off Gross Weight is 51,900 pounds (23,537 kg).
  • Airspeed: Mach 1.7+.
  • Ceiling: 50,000+ feet.
  • Range: Combat: 1,089 nautical miles (1252.4 miles/2,003 km), clean plus two AIM-9s

General Characteristics, Super Hornet, E and F models

  • Date Deployed: First flight in November 1995. Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in September 2001 with VFA-115, NAS Lemoore, Calif. First cruise for VFA-115 is onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.
  • Propulsion: Two F414-GE-400 turbofan engines. 22,000 pounds (9,977 kg) static thrust per engine.
  • Length: 60.3 feet (18.5 meters).
  • Height: 16 feet (4.87 meters).
  • Wingspan: 44.9 feet (13.68 meters).
  • Weight: Maximum Take Off Gross Weight is 66,000 pounds (29,932 kg).
  • Airspeed: Mach 1.8+.
  • Ceiling: 50,000+ feet.
  • Range: Combat: 1,275 nautical miles (2,346 kilometers), clean plus two AIM-9s


F/A-18 Variants

The Hornet-Super Hornet series has these main variants (see photos below):

  • F/A-18A Hornet: single seat
  • F/A-18B Hornet: two-seat
  • F/A-18C Hornet: single seat
  • F/A-18D Hornet: two-seat
  • F/A-18E Super Hornet: single seat
  • F/A-18F Super Hornet: two-seat
  • E/A-18G Growler: electronic warfare version of the two-seat F/A-18F

F/A-18 Photos

F/A-18 carrier deck operations (US Navy Photo)
F/A-18 carrier deck operations
F/A-18C Hornet in flight (US Navy Photo)
F/A-18C Hornet in flight
F/A-18E Super Hornet landing on carrier (US Navy Photo)
F/A-18E Super Hornet landing on carrier
F/A-18F Super Hornet in flight (US Navy Photo)
F/A-18F Super Hornet in flight



F/A-18 of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels Demonstration Team (US Navy Photo)
F/A-18 of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels Demonstration Team


More Resources About the F/A-18 Hornet

F/A-18 at Boeing

F/A-18 Hornet Fact Sheet at the U.S. Navy

F/A-18 Super Hornet at Northrop Grumman