Data | Image Gallery


F/A-18 Hornet McDonnell Douglas
(now Boeing)/
F/A-18 Hornet
Multi-Role Fighter

The F-18 Hornet is based on the earlier Northrop YF-17 Cobra. The YF-17 had been developed to compete with the F-16 in the US Air Force's Lightweight Fighter Competition of the 1970s. Though the USAF eventually selected the F-16, the US Navy felt that Northrop's concept offered greater potential as a replacement for the aging A-7 Corsair attack fighter. Northrop and McDonnell Douglas agreed to jointly produce an F-18 fighter version for the Navy and an A-18 attack variant for the Marines, but the two missions were later combined. The result was the multi-mission F/A-18 Hornet.

In keeping with its multi-role designation, at the heart of the F-18 is a multi-mode Hughes radar that is equally effective in air-to-air and air-to ground missions. Combined with an advanced array of avionics, cockpit displays, powerful engines, excellent high angle-of attack aerodynamics, and a wide range of weaponry, the F-18 exceeded expectations in terms of accuracy, maneuverabiity, and overall effectiveness. The F-18 successfully entered service with both the Navy and Marine Corps during the mid-1980s as a replacement for the A-7 and F-4 Phantom II.

Production then switched to the upgraded F/A-18C single-seat and F/A-18D two-seat models. Though largely similar externally, the two new F-18 variants feature a number of avionics improvements centering on providing night attack capability. While the earlier F-18B was a trainer only, the rear seat of the F-18D is equipped with mutli-functional displays and sidestick weapons controllers allowing the F-18 to serve as a forward air controller guiding other planes to targets over the battlefield.

The F/A-18C/D models ended production in the late-1990s having been superseded by the F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornet. Current plans call for the F-18A/B aircraft to remain in service with the US Navy until about 2015 while F-18C/D models will be retired by 2020. The F-18 has also attracted customers among a number of foreign air forces.

Data below for F/A-18C
Last modified 06 April 2011

First Flight (F-18A) 18 November 1978
(F-18C) 3 September 1986
(F-18D) 6 May 1988
Service Entry

(F-18A) 7 January 1983
(F-18D) November 1989

CREW: (F-18A/C) one: pilot
(F-18D) two: pilot, weapon systems officer


$35 million [2003$]

Wing Root NACA 65A005 mod
Wing Tip

NACA 65A003.5 mod

Length 56.00 ft (17.07 m)
Wingspan 37.50 ft (11.43 m)
Height 15.25 ft (4.66 m)
Wing Area 400 ft² (37.16 m²)
Canard Area

not applicable

Empty 23,050 lb (10,455 kg)
Normal Takeoff 36,710 lb (16,6500 kg) [fighter mission]
49,225 lb (22,330 kg) [attack mission]
Max Takeoff 56,000 lb (25,400 kg)
Fuel Capacity internal: 10,860 lb (4,925 kg)
external: 6,730 lb (3,055 kg)
Max Payload

15,500 lb (7,030 kg)

Powerplant two General Electric F404-400 afterburning turbofans
Thrust 32,000 lb (142.4 kN) with afterburner

Max Level Speed at altitude: 1,190 mph (1,915 km/h) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m), Mach 1.8
at sea level: unknown
Initial Climb Rate 45,000 ft (13,715 m) / min
Service Ceiling 50,000 ft (15,240 m)
Endurance unknown
Range fighter mission: 800 nm (1,480 km)
attack mission: 1,150 nm (2,130 km)
ferry: 1,800 nm (3,335 km)
g-Limits unknown

Gun one 20-mm M61A1 Vulcan cannon (570 rds)
Stations seven external hardpoints and two wingtip rails
Air-to-Air Missile AIM-7 Sparrow, AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-132 ASRAAM
Air-to-Surface Missile AGM-45 Shrike, AGM-62 Walleye, AGM-65 Maverick, AGM-84 Harpoon, AGM-84 SLAM, AGM-84 SLAM-ER, AGM-88 HARM, AGM-123 Skipper, AGM-154 JSOW
Bomb GBU-10/12/24/51 Paveway laser-guided, GBU-15 EO-guided, GBU-29/30/31/32/35 JDAM, B-57/61 nuclear, Mk 82/83/84 GP, Mk 20 Rockeye, BLU-107 Durandal, CBU-59 cluster
Other ECM pods, rocket pods

YF-17 Cobra Northrop's entry in the USAF Lightweight Fighter competition, although not selected, US Navy evaluation of the design led to the F/A-18 Hornet
F/A-18A First production model; 371 built
AF-18A One-seat fighter purchased by Australia, based on the F-18A but currently being upgraded to F-18C standard to serve until at least 2011; 57 built
ATF-18A Two-seat trainer for Australia, very similar to the F-18B; 18 built
CF-18A or CF-188A One-seat fighter purchased by Canada, based on the F-18A but fitted with a spotlight for identifying targets at night, a new ILS, and able to carry LAU-5003 rocket pods, Canada plans to keep its aircraft in service until 2017; 98 built
EF-18A or C-15 One-seat fighter purchased by Spain, based on the F-18A but being upgraded to near F-18C standard; 60 built
RF-18A Reconnaissance model, few built and most transferred to research duties with the US Navy and NASA
F/A-18B or TF/A-18A Two-seat trainer; 40 built
CF-18B or CF-188B Two-seat trainer for Canada; 40 built
EF-18B or CE-15 Two-seat trainer for Spain; 12 built
F/A-18C Upgraded one-seat model able to carry the AIM-120 AMRAAM and AGM-65 Maverick, also upgraded with new avionics, a new ejection seat, and small strakes on the LERXs to reduce buffet on the tailfins; 355 built
KF-18C One-seat fighter purchased by Kuwait, based on the F-18C; 32 built
F/A-18D Two-seat night attack fighter for the US Marines, includes the same avionic upgrades as the F-18C
KAF-18D Two-seat trainer for Kuwait; 8 built
F/A-18E/F Significantly upgraded Super Hornet models with lengthened fuselage and enlarged wings
Hornet 2000

MDD proposal for an advanced Hornet with enlarged wing and tail surfaces, longer fuselage, new engines, and an improved cockpit; presumably led to Super Hornet 'E' and 'F' models


Libya - Operation El Dorado Canyon (USN, 1986)
Iraq - Operation Desert Storm (USN, USMC, Canada, 1991)
Iraq - Operation Southern Watch (USN, USMC, 1991-2003)
Bosnia - Operation Deliberate Force (USN, USMC, Canada, Spain, 1995)
Iraq - Operation Desert Fox (USN, 1998)
Kosovo - Operation Allied Force (USN, Canada, Spain, 1999)
Afghanistan - Operation Enduring Freedom (USN, USMC, 2001-present)
Iraq - Operation Iraqi Freedom (USN, USMC, Australia, 2003-present)
Libya - Operation Unified Protector (Canada, Spain, 2011)


Australia (Royal Australian Air Force)
Canada (Canadian Armed Forces, Air Command)
Finland, Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force)
Kuwait, al-Quwwat al-Jawwiya al-Kuwaitiya (Kuwaiti Air Force)
Malaysia, Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia (Royal Malaysian Air Force)
Spain, Ejército del Aire Española (Spanish Air Force)
Switzerland, Schweizer Luftwaffe (Swiss Air Force)
United States (US Marine Corps)
United States (US Navy)
United States (NASA)


F/A-18 Hornet

  • Boeing F/A-18 site
  • Bonds, Ray, ed. The Modern US War Machine: An Encyclopedia of American Military Equipment and Strategy. NY: Military Press, 1987, p. 200-201.
  • Donald, David, ed. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1997, p. 614, McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet.
  • Donald, David and Lake, Jon, ed. The Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft. NY: Barnes & Noble, 2000, p. 277-281, McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A/C Hornet, F/A-18B/D/D(RC) Hornet.
  • Gunston, Bill, ed. The Encyclopedia of Modern Warplanes. NY: Barnes & Noble, 1995, p. 179-180, McDonnell Douglas FA-18A/C Hornet, F/A-18B/D Hornet.
  • Gunston, Bill and Spick, Mike. Modern Air Combat: The Aircraft, Tactics and Weapons Employed in Aerial Combat Today. NY: Crescent Books, 1983, p. 126-127.
  • Laur, Timothy M. and Llanso, Steven L. Encyclopedia of Modern U.S. Military Weapons. NY: Berkley Books, 1995, p. 91-95, Hornet (F/A-18).
  • Miller, David, ed. The Illustrated Directory of Modern American Weapons. London: Salamander Books, 2002, p. 68-73, Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F/A-18 Hornet/Super Hornet.
  • Spick, Mike. Brassey's Modern Fighters: The Ultimate Guide to In-Flight Tactics, Technology, Weapons, and Equipment. Washington, DC: Brassey's, 2000, p. 110-115, Boeing F/A-18 Hornet.
  • Taylor, Michael. Brassey's World Aircraft & Systems Directory 1996/1997. London: Brassey's, 1996, p. 144-146, McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet.
  • Taylor, Michael J. H. Brassey's World Aircraft & Systems Directory 1999/2000. London: Brassey's, 1999, p. 112-115, Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F/A-18 Hornet and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
  • US Navy F-18 Fact File
  • Wilson, Jim. Combat: The Great American Warplane. NY: Hearst Books, 2001, p. 182-183, F/A-18 Hornet.

Back Aircraft | Design | Ask Us | Shop | Search Home
About Us | Contact Us | Copyright © 1997-2012