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F/A-18E/F Hornet Boeing
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
Multi-Role Fighter

Following the cancellation of the A-12 Avenger, McDonnell Douglas proposed a new variant of the F-18 Hornet as a cheaper alternative to the stealth attack plane. Though sharing great commonality with the previous F-18C single-seat and F-18D two-seat models, the F-18E and F-18F have been extensively redesigned with a lengthened fuselage, 25% larger wing with room for two additional pylons, bigger tail surfaces, and enlarged leading-edge root extensions (LERXs) for better high angle-of-attack performance. The new fuselage and wing provide space for 33% more fuel capacity to increase range and endurance as well as payload. The Super Hornet is also fitted with more powerful General Electric F414 engines to maintain the same thrust-to-weight ratio as the earlier models.

The F-18E/F also features an updated cockpit complete with glass displays and advanced avionics. Additional modifications compared to the original F-18 include a new APG-73 radar, simplified landing gear, and trapezoidal inlets that provide increased airflow to the engines while lowering radar cross-section. Another improvement is the addition of the ALQ-124 integrated defensive countermeasures (IDECM) system that controls an ALE-47 countermeasures dispenser, ALE-50 towed decoy, and ALR-67 radar warning receiver for comprehensive protection against air defenses.

Newer production models are also equipped with the APG-79 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar as well as the advanced targeting forward looking infrared (ATFLIR) system. Other improvements being installed during upgrades are the multifunctional information distribution system (MIDS) and the joint helmet mounted cueing system (JHMCS). This new helmet is used in conjunction with the high off-boresight AIM-9X missile.

Flight testing of the Super Hornet began in 1995 with delivery of the first production aircraft in 1998. Early testing revealed two significant aerodynamic problems with the aircraft. Most important of these was an uncommanded "wing drop" wherein one wing would suddenly stall without warning during certain maneuvers causing the aircraft to roll rapidly to one side. Modifications to the dogtooth on the outer wing as well as other wing adjustments corrected this undesirable behavior. The second issue was strong turbulence beneath the wings so severe that it damaged weapons and other stores carried on the underwing pylons. This problem was remedied by a rearrangement of the pylons, but at the price of increased drag and reduced performance at high speeds.

Despite these problems, the F-18E/F has otherwise proven quite successful and large numbers have been purchased for the US Navy. Some 340 had been delivered by mid-2008 out of a total Navy order of 493. US acquisition plans include 234 F-18E and 259 F-18F to be purchased by 2012 to replace the legacy F-18A and F-14. The Navy hopes to provide each carrier air wing with 12 of the single-seat and 14 two-seat models, and four or five of these aircraft will be fitted with underwing "buddy stores" to serve as in-flight refueling tankers replacing the S-3 Viking.

Another model being developed from the F-18F is the two-seat EA-18G Growler electronic warfare platform intended to replace the EA-6B Prowler jamming aircraft. The Navy has funded 88 of the EA-18G and would like to ultimately provide each carrier air wing with five of the jammer planes.

The Navy originally hoped to acquire about 1,000 F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft. However, growth in development costs and the Navy's commitment to the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter will likely limit production to less than 600 planes. However, additional Super Hornets may be purchased if the Navy accepts Boeing's offer to build 170 more at a reduced cost of $49.9 million each.

Boeing has also been actively pursuing export customers for the F/A-18E/F. Australia placed the first such order by purchasing 24 Super Hornets to replace the F-111 by 2010. Kuwait and Malaysia have both made plans to buy the F/A-18E/F while Singapore has also expressed interest, but no firm sales to these nations have been completed to date. The Super Hornet is currently a competitor for India's F-X contract to buy 126 multi-role combat aircraft as well as contests in Greece, Brazil, and Denmark.

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

First Flight 29 November 1995
Service Entry

(F-18E/F) September 2001
(EA-18G) September 2009

CREW: (F-18E) one: pilot
(F-18F) two: pilot, weapon systems officer


(F/A-18E) $57 million [2003$]
(F/A-18F) $59 million [2003$]
(EA-18G) $66 million [2003$]

Wing Root unknown
Wing Tip


Length 60.01 ft (18.31 m)
Wingspan 44.71 ft (13.62 m)
Height 15.79 ft (4.82 m)
Wing Area 500 ft² (46.45 m²)
Canard Area

not applicable

Empty 30,600 lb (13,880 kg)
Normal Takeoff unknown
Max Takeoff 66,000 lb (29,935 kg)
Fuel Capacity internal:
(F-18E) 14,400 lb (6,530 kg)
(F-18F) 13,550 lb (6,145 kg)
external: 9,780 lb (4,435 kg)
Max Payload

17,750 lb (8,050 kg)

Powerplant two General Electric F414-400 afterburning turbofans
Thrust 44,000 lb (195.72 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: 835 mph (1,350 km/h), Mach 1.1
Initial Climb Rate unknown
Service Ceiling 50,000 ft (15,240 m)
Range typical: 1,200 nm (2,225 km)
ferry: 1,660 nm (3,055 km)
Endurance unknown
g-Limits unknown

Gun one 20-mm M61A1/A2 Vulcan cannon
Stations nine external hardpoints and two wingtip rails
Air-to-Air Missile AIM-7 Sparrow, AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-120 AMRAAM
Air-to-Surface Missile AGM-65 Maverick, AGM-84 Harpoon, AGM-84 SLAM, AGM-84 SLAM-ER, AGM-88 HARM, AGM-154 JSOW
Bomb GBU-10/12/24 Paveway laser-guided, GBU-31/32/38 JDAM, Mk 82/83/84 GP
Other ECM pods, SHARP reconnaissance pod, rocket pods, mines

F/A-18E One-seat Super Hornet with enlarged fuselage allowing much larger fuel capacity, improved radar, greater payload, and greater stealth characteristics; 234 to be built
F/A-18F Two-seat version of the Super Hornet; 283 to be built
EA-18G Electronic warfare platform based on the F-18F airframe to provide jamming escort capability; 90 to be built
F/A-18IN Variant offered to India for its Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contract


Iraq - Operation Southern Watch (USN, 2002-2003)
Afghanistan - Operation Enduring Freedom (USN, 2002-present)
Iraq - Operation Iraqi Freedom (USN, 2003-present)
Iraq - Operation Iraqi Freedom (USN [EA-18G], 2010)
Libya - Operation Unified Protector / Odyssey Dawn (USN [EA-18G], 2011)


Australia (Royal Australian Air Force)
United States (US Navy)


F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

  • Boeing F/A-18E/F site
  • 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. 282, McDonnell Douglas F/A-18E/F.
  • 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.
  • Müller, Claudio. Aircraft of the World. NY: Muddle Puddle Books, 2004, p. 88-89, Boeing (MDD) F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
  • Rendall, David. Jane's Aircraft Recognition Guide, 2nd ed. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1999, p. 36.
  • 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.

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