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McDonnell-Douglas F-18 Hornet / EA-18 Growler


The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet is a twin-engine carrier-based attack fighter derived from the YF-17 Cobra attempt at a new USAF lightweight fighter, on which the USN was a minor partner (the F-17 lost out to the YF-16).

The Navy preferred the YF-17 over the winning F-16 Fighting Falcon, because of its twin-engine design. For the Navy version, Northrop teamed with McDonnell Douglas and when the two services ended up choosing different aircraft, McDonnell Douglas became the primary contractor for the Navy design (McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing in 1997).

The Navy's design concept originated from Vice Admiral Kent Lee. An experienced naval aviator in WWII, he and his supporters pushed for a cheap and lightweight strike fighter, to complement the F-14 Tomcat which had become operational and was just being introduced to the carrier air wings in 1973.

The F/A-18 has a digital fly-by-wire flight control system, the cockpit equipped with three multi function displays. The entire avionics suite is digital. The F-18 is powered by two 71 2kN General Electric F404 reheated turbofans, and equip-ment includes a Hughes APG-65 radar with air-to-air and air-to-surface modes giving intercept and attack capabilities, a Ferranti/Bendix headup display, Kaiser multifunction displays, and Litton INS. Other externally carried sensors include laser tracker and Flir pods. As a carrier-capable platform, the F/A-18 maintains folding wings. The Hornet is capable of air-to-air refuelling.

The first of 11 full-scale development (FSD) Hornets flew on November 18, 1978, and was followed by the first production aircraft in April 1980. F/A-18 Hornets (A and B variants) entered service in 1983, replacing the F-4 Phantom II and the A-7 Corsair II. F/A-18A/B were single and two seat aircraft. The F-18B two-seat trainer retains full operational capability with only a six per cent reduction in internal fuel capacity.

FY1986 and subsequent purchases are of the upgraded F-18C/D variants, which have AIM-120 Amraam and infrared Maverick compatibility, airborne self-protection jammers, Naces ejec-tion seats, and improved computers. The first F-18C flight occurred in mid-1986. After a production run of 371 F/A-18As, manufacture shifted to the F/A-18C/D single and two seat variants in September 1987. Seventy-seven F-18A single-seaters and eight F-18B two-seaters delivered during 1986, including 24 for the USMC.




MDC handed over the 500th F-18 Hornet, an A model for the USMC, in May 1987.

Although the single seat variants, A and C, were first equipped with the AN/APG-65 radar, since 1994 all US Hornets feature the improved AN/APG-73 radar. The second seat of the B and D models is often manned by a weapon system operator or instructor.


Test-ing of a reconnaissance version, the US Navy F-18(R) continued. The nose-mounted 20mm rotary cannon was replaced by a sensor pallet with panoramic camera and infrared linscan. The aircraft can be reconfigured overnight for strike missions.

Licence-assembly of Hornets continued in Australia in 1987, where GAF has delivered more than 20 to the Royal Australian Air Force.

The CF-18 is the designation used for the Canadian licensed built aircraft. The Canadian Armed Forces purchased 138 examples of the CF-18 including 24 CF-18B two-seaters.

The first prototype F/A-18E Super Hornet flew on November 29, 1995.

The F/A-18E/F "Super Hornet" arrived in 2002 and represented an aircraft that was 20 percent larger and more powerful than the base Hornets. The Super Hornet is produced by a consortium of contractors that includes Boeing and Northrop Grumman. The tandem-seat Super Hornet was designed to be ultra-capable in both strike and interceptor roles and squadrons are already operating on various USN carrier battle groups. The Super Hornet is built on the F414-GE-400 series of powerplants, which stands as a highly advanced modified version of the original F404 turbofans, bigger air intakes, and the airframe itself is longer. A 33% larger internal fuel capacity and larger ordnance carrying capacity improves the range significantly. As a whole, the Super Hornets, despite their advanced infrastructure, is compiled of less parts than the original Hornets making the Super Hornet that much easier to maintain. Additional hardpoints make the Super Hornet a viable replacement to the F-14 Tomcat and A-6 Intruders.

F/A-18E Super Hornet

The F/A-18E (single seat) and F/A-18F (two seat) Super Hornets provides increased range and improved combat mission endurance. The Super Hornet also makes use of an increased payload. F/A-18F Super Hornets with a WSO in the rear seat are replacing the F-14 Tomcat.

The US Navy took delivery of its first Super Hornet in 1999. Super Hornets are larger than the original models with many detail improvements. Their increased wing area allows them to carry more stores further on their extra hardpoints. They are most easily recognised by their rectangular engine air intakes.

The Royal Australian Air Force was to obtain 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets by 2010, until the full introduction into service of the F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter. Twenty-four F/A-18F Super Hornets were to replace the F-111s at Nos 1 and 6 Squadrons at RAAF Base Amberley from 2010.

Boeing modified an F/A-18 Super Hornet as the EA-18 airborne electronic attack (concept) aircraft, carrying three ALQ-99 jamming pods.

The EF-18 designation is also used for Spanish F/A-18A/B Hornets (EF-18A and EF-18B) where the E stands for Espanga.

The RF-18 which is a dedicated reconnaissance version.

The Boeing EA-18G Growler electronic warfare variant, to replace the EA-6B Prowler, differs from the F/A-18F in several areas. It is wired in production differently with additional wiring and databuses from the wing stations and various fuselage antennae points. The nose gun is replaced with additional avionics for jamming missions, and carries two ALQ-218 tactical jamming receivers pods on the wingtips, and between one and five AN/ALQ-99 jammers on centreline and wing stations. There remains two wing and two should stations. It is also equipped with the APG-79 AESA radar.

The F/A-18 first saw combat action in 1986, when Hornets from the USS Coral Sea (CV-43) flew SEAD missions against Libyan air defenses during the attack on Benghazi.

Ten F/A-18’s were lost in the Gulf War, most to surface to air missiles although one was alleged to have been shot down by an Iraqi MiG-25PD in the first hours of the air campaign. F/A-18’s were credited with two kills, both of MiG-21’s, during that conflict.



Operators: US Navy, US Marine Corps, Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain, Switzerland.




Engine: 2 x General Electric F404-400 turbofan, 7258 kg / 16,000 lb
Wingspan: 11.43m / 37 ft 6 in
Length: 17.07 m / 56 ft 0 in
Wing area: 37.2 sq.m
Empty wt: 10,460 kg
MTOW: 21,887 kg / 48,253 lb
Fuel internal: 6140 lt
Max speed: 1912 kph / 1188 mph / 1.8 Mach
Initial ROC: 45,000  ft / min
Ceiling: 15,240 m
TO run: 425 m
Ldg run: 850 m
Range: 3706 km / 2303 sm
Combat radius: 740+ km
Armament: 1 x 20 mm / 570 rds
Hard points: 7 + 2 wing tips
Max external load: 17,000 lb / 7711 kg
Air refuel: Yes

F/A-18A (from early 1992)
Engine: 2 x General Electric F404-GE-402 turbofans, 78.73 kN (17,700 lb st) with afterburning.
Length 17.07m (56 ft 0 in)
Height 4.66m (15 ft 3 in)
Wing span 11.43m (37ft 6 in)
Take-off weight (clean) 10.455 kg (23,050 lb)
Max Take-Off Weight 25.401 kg (56,000 lb)
Max level speed at altitude Mach 1.8+ / 1.915+ km/h / 1,190+ mph)
Combat ceiling about 15,240m (50,000 ft)
Armament: one 20mm M61A1 Vulcan six-barrel cannon with 570 rounds
Disposable stores: 7031 kg (15,500 lb)
Hardpoints 9

Engines: 2 x General Electric F404-GE-400 turbofan, 16,000lb / 7,258kg thrust
Length: 17.1 m
Wingspan: 12.4 m
Height: 4.7 m
Empty Weight: 23,049lbs (10,455kg)
Maximum Take-Off Weight: 55,997lbs (25,400kg)
Maximum Speed: Mach 1.8 / 2200 kph
Maximum Range: 2,073miles (3,336km)
Combat radius: 740km
Rate-of-Climb: 45,000ft/min (13,716m/min)
Service Ceiling: 50,033ft (15,250m; 9.5miles)
Armament: 1 x M61 20mm cannon
Hardpoints: 9 (including wingtip mounts)
Seats: 2


Seats: 2

Engines: 2 x General Electric F414-GE-400, 10000kg / 72.5kN
Max take-off weight: 29937 kg / 66000 lb
Empty weight: 13387 kg / 29513 lb
Wingspan: 11.43 m / 37 ft 6 in
Length: 18.31 m / 60 ft 1 in
Height: 4.88 m / 16 ft 0 in
Wing area: 46.45 sq.m / 499.98 sq ft
Max take-off weight: 20000 kg / 44093 lb
Max. speed: 1.8M
Ceiling: 15240 m / 50000 ft
Range: 1500 km / 932 miles
Crew: 1

F/A-18F Super Hornet
Engines: 2 x General Electric F414-GE-400 turbofan, 9,800kg. 22,000lbs thrust with afterburner.
Length: 60.07ft (18.31m)
Width: 44.69ft (13.62m)
Height: 16.01ft (4.88m)
Wing area: 46.45 sq.m / 499.98 sq ft
Empty Weight: 30,565lbs (13,864kg)
Maximum Take-Off Weight: 47,003lbs (21,320kg)
Maximum Speed: Mach 1.6 / 1,960 kph
Ferrying range: 2,700km
Combat radius 740km
Service Ceiling: 49,213ft (15,000m; 9.3miles)
Armament: 1 x M61 20mm cannon
Hardpoints: 11
Ordnance: 17,750 lb
Crew: 2




EA-18G Growler

McDonnell Douglas F-18 Hornet



McDonnell Douglas F/A-18E Super Hornet



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