F/A-18 Hornet Fighter

Two F/A-18 Hornet fighters in flightThe McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 is a multirole fighter designed for aircraft carrier duty and is the first tactical aircraft initially designed to carry out both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. 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 resilient F/A-18 Hornet was the first aircraft to have carbon fiber wings and the first tactical jet fighter to use digital fly-by-wire flight controls. Variants included a two-seater, an improved fighter, a reconnaissance aircraft and a night-attack fighter.

Since the first Hornet entered service in 1980, McDonnell Douglas built over 1,200. Overseas, Hornets served with the Australian, Canadian, Spanish, Kuwaiti, Swiss, Finnish and Malaysian air forces. In November 1986, the 40th anniversary of the Navy's Blue Angels, the demonstration squadron replaced its A-4 Skyhawks with F/A-18 Hornets. They saw use as a show aircraft the following season.

Hornets entered active duty in January 1983. In 1986, Hornets on the USS Coral Sea flew their first combat missions. During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, while performing an air-to-ground mission, Hornets destroyed two Iraqi MiG-21s in air-to-air combat. During 2001, Hornets provided around-the-clock battlefield coverage in the Afghanistan theater of operations.

The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet made its first flight in November 1995. The Super Hornet is an advanced version of the combat-proven F/A-18 Hornet and is produced in the single-seat E model and the two-seat F model. The F/A-18E/F is 25 percent larger than the original Hornet and has increased maneuverability, range, payload and more powerful engines. It entered operational service with the U.S. Navy in 1999 and flew its first combat missions in 2002.

The Super Hornet received the 1999 Robert J. Collier Trophy. By the end of 2005, more than 300 had been delivered, and production was planned for at least 460 Super Hornets through 2011.

First flight: Nov. 18, 1978
Wingspan: 37 feet 5 inches
Length: 56 feet
Height: 15 feet 3.5 inches
Takeoff weight: Fighter, 36,710 pounds; attack, 49,224 pounds
Speed: 1,360 mph plus
Ceiling: 50,000 feet
Power plant: Two 16,000-pound-thrust GE F404-GE-400 low-bypass turbofan engines
Accommodation: One crew (F/A-18A/C); two crew (F/A-18B/D)
Armament: One 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan six-barrel cannon with 570 rounds, plus up to 17,000 pounds ordnance, including bombs, rockets, missiles and drop tanks on nine external points