F-18 Hornet

YouTube – F-18 Hornet

E US$ Cost:
F US$ Cost:
Primary Function:
E Crew:
F Crew:
Thrust Each:
Fuel, Internal:
Fuel, External:
Max. Weight:
Cruise Speed:
Max. Speed:
Climb Rate:
Combat Range:
Year Deployed:
Year Deployed:
US$75 million
US$78 million
GE turbofans
2 x 22,000 lbs.
17,498 lbs.
11,885 lbs.
80,207 lbs.
1 – 20 mm
17,750 lbs.
60 ft. 0 in.
44 ft. 8 in.
575 mph
1,190 mph
50,000 fpm
50,000 feet
1,468 miles
2 hrs. 15 min.
2001 (E)
2003 (F)

F-18 Hornet carrier launch

F-18 Hornet

Legacy F-18 Hornet Development

The development history of the F-18 Hornet traces back to May 2, 1975. That is when the U.S. Navy announced the go ahead of a collaboration on aircraft from Northrop and McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing). The aircraft began life when proposed for the U.S. Air Force as the YF-17. When it was decided that it would be developed for use by the U.S. Navy, McDonnell Douglas partnered with Boeing. It was because Boeing had experience with planes operating from aircraft carriers.

Two types of the F-18 Hornet were developed. One for fleet defense against enemy aircraft, and the other for ground attack, primarily in support of U.S.M.C. troops. Eventually it was decided to build a single aircraft that met both roles.

On November 18, 1978, the prototype F-18 Hornet flew for the first time. In March of 1980 the last of eleven prototype aircraft was delivered to the U.S. Navy. In May of 1980, delivery of initial production aircraft began.

With its dual role capacity, the F-18 Hornet was originally intended to supplement current U.S. Navy attack, fleet defense aircraft. The advanced radar systems and avionics allowed its pilots to go from air attack or defense to ground attack mode on the same sortie, with the flip of a switch. During Operation Desert Storm, it became routine for pilots to down opposing aircraft on their way to a target, and then complete their mission against ground targets.

The multi-role F-18 Hornet has flown fighter escort, forward air control, air-defense suppression, reconnaissance, close air support, and strike missions.

F-18 Hornet ground crews praise its reliability and ease of maintenance. A number of aircraft have taken hits from missiles, brought their crews home safely, underwent repairs, and were flying soon afterward.

On January 7, 1983 the US Marines VMFA-314 “Black Knights” became operational with F-18 Hornet aircraft.

In 1986 the U.S. Navy aerobatic team began using the airplane in their performances. They continue to fly as a team to this date.

The F-18 Hornet played a major role in the 1986 U.S. strikes against Libya. Flying from the U.S.S. Coral Sea, F-18 Hornet aircraft launched high speed anti-radiation missiles (HARM) against Libyan air defense radars and surface to air missile sites. With those targets destroyed, it was possible to fly against targets in Benghazi.

Through 1987, a total of 371 model A (single seat) and a total of 40 model B (two seat) aircraft were built when production switched to models C and D. On September 3, 1986 the model C had its first flight.

F-18 Hornet C and D models were introduced with upgraded radars, upgraded avionics, a Forward Looking Infrared array (FLIR), full color flight displays, upgraded missile carrying abilities, upgraded ejection seats, and Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) jamming.

In November of 1989, the first F-18 Hornet night fighter aircraft were deployed with the U.S. Marine Corps.  These were model D aircraft equipped with Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance System (ATARS). It features enhanced data storage capacity and imaging.

Beginning in 1991, F-18 Hornet aircraft have been equipped with F404-GE-402 enhanced performance engines, producing about one fifth more thrust than previous engines.

In May of 1994 the F-18 Hornet received upgraded radar with faster speed and greater memory processors.

In addition to the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, the F-18 Hornet has been used by the air forces of Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain, and Switzerland.

Canada became the first international customer for the F-18 Hornet, with an initial order of 136 aircraft. An unusual feature of Canadian aircraft was a cockpit painted on the underside of the aircraft, in hopes of momentarily confusing an enemy pilot while engaging in visual combat.

Some 1,070 F-18 Hornet model C (single seat) and D (two seat) aircraft were built.

F-18 Super Hornet

In 1990 the U. S. Navy began the development of the newest F-18, called the Super Hornet, as a replacement for aging aircraft. On November 29, 1995 the first prototype of the new aircraft took to the sky. In 1997 the manufacture of production models started. They began their test flights with U.S. Navy Squadron VFA-122 in November of 1999.  On February 15, 2000, the U.S. Navy declared the new models E and F as ready for deployment. On July 24, 2002 the new Super Hornet aircraft became operational with the U.S. Navy.  Export versions were made available in 2005.

Many judge the F-18 Hornet models E (single seat) and F (two seat) to be an essentially new aircraft. They have about four feet more overall length and 1/4 additional wing area than previous models. They have about 1/3 more fuel capacity with overall weight up by approximately 25%. Mission time is estimated as 40% longer, with one and a half times more combat endurance. Two more hard points have been added to the aircraft. There is about 15% more carrier recovery payload, while total engine thrust has increased by about 22%.

The F-18 Hornet models E and F are an extension of the success of their predecessors.  The aircraft have proven themselves in all weather, day and night missions. They have proven themselves as additionally survivable, more maneuverable, faster, and even tougher than their predecessors.

The F-18 Hornet models E and F cockpit has been reworked to include larger displays, incorporate tactical targeting network technology, an advanced targeting forward-looking infrared (ATFLIR) system, joint helmet-mounted cueing system (JHMCS), a multifunctional information distribution system (MIDS),  Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT), a distributed targeting processor network  along with increased computer bandwidth to allow for sharing and collection of time critical information by the use of still imagery and streaming videos.

New long-range infrared sighting and tracking (IRST) sensors will detect and track targets from greater distances.  IRST is a passive system, detecting heat from engines and that generated by the air heating the surface of a target passing through the atmosphere.  Targets do not know that they are being tracked.

Radar-absorbing coatings on key airframe parts will help reduce their radar signature. Conformal fuel tanks will increase aircraft range by up to 135 miles or allow for carrying additional ordnance.

Modifications on airframes and components will increase service life to a total of 10,000 hours.

By 2024 one squadron per U.S. carrier air wing, and by 2027 two squadrons per U.S.carrier air wing should have these modifications.

In April of 2018 the U.S. Navy had an order for an additional eleven F-18 model E aircraft.

F-18 Hornet Upgrades

In June of 2018 an agreement was reached that upgrades of F-18 A/B, C/D, E/F and EA-18 model G Hornet aircraft for the United States Navy and United States allies would be effected by Boeing.  Total cost will be around US$1.5 billion.

In February of 2019 it was announced that the Navy is acquiring AN/ALQ-214 A(V)4/5 Integrated Defensive Electronic Countermeasures Onboard Jammers for F-18 Hornet aircraft.  This latest system forms an electronic shield around F-18 Hornet aircraft by combining receivers with active countermeasures.

Oct. 4, 2019: The U.S. Department of Defense awarded US$10,592,822 to procure two F414-GE-400 production install engines, five engine devices, and 29 engine device K-seals in support of Lot 23 engine production for the F-18 Hornet model E and F aircraft. Work should be finished by August of 2021.

Oct. 14, 2019:  Northrop Grumman receives a US$24,299,972 firm-fixed-priced delivery order from the U.S. Dept. of Defense for F-18 Hornet rudders. Completion date is Aug. 31, 2026.

Oct. 21, 2019:  The U.S, Dept. of Defense orders “Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared special test equipment updates to the Windows 10 operating system in support of the F-18 Hornet aircraft” from Raytheon in the amount of US$17,897,746. Expected completion is in February of 2022.

Nov. 6, 2019:  The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Boeing US$34,230,269 for “non-recurring engineering, logistics product data, 28 Group A-1 retrofit kits, 28 Group A-2 retrofit kits, and 28 Group B retrofit kits for incorporation of the Distributed Targeting Processor-Network into the F-18 Hornet aircraft for the U.S. Navy and the Government of Australia”.  Work should be finished by June of 2022.

Nov. 27, 2019:  The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Boeing US$43,783,296 for “the manufacture, test and delivery of 48 trailing edge flap retrofit redesign kits in support of F-18 Hornet model E and F aircraft”.  Work is expected to be completed by June of 2022.

Nov. 27, 2019:  The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Boeing US$172,233,232 to “continue service life modifications to extend the operational service life from 6,000 flight hours to 10,000 flight hours” of up to 23 F-18 Hornet models E and F aircraft.

Dec. 12, 2019:  The United States Defense Logistics Agency Aviation awarded Raytheon a US$45,085,238 delivery order for F-18 Hornet APG-79 Radar System spare parts.  Deliveries are to be completed by Dec. 30, 2022.

Dec. 26, 2019:  The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Boeing US$35,101,590 “for the production and delivery of ten Advanced Capability Mission Computers (ACMC) in support of F-18 Hornet models E and F production for the U.S. Navy, 66 ACMCs for the government of Australia and 10 ACMCs for the government of Kuwait.  Work will be performed in St. Louis, Missouri, and is expected to be completed in August 2023”.

Jan. 20, 2020:  The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency Aviation awarded Boeing a US$14,002,398 delivery order “for spare items in support of the Flight Control Surfaces utilized on [Swiss] F-18 Hornet aircraft”. May 30, 2022 is the performance completion date.

Jan. 31, 2020:  The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division awarded Kay and Associates, Buffalo Grove, Illinois US$67,314,436 for “maintenance and support services for F-18 Hornet models C/D aircraft and associated equipment in support of the government of Kuwait. Work will be performed in Kuwait, and is expected to be completed in January of 2022”.

Feb. 6, 2020:  The U.S. Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support awarded GE Aviation US$26,583,200 “for the procurement of 101 generator converter units used on the F-18 Hornet aircraft”. Work will be completed by January 2025.

Feb. 11, 2020:  The U.S. Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support awarded Boeing US$22.2 million “for the procurement of trailing edge flaps in support of the F-18 Hornet model C and D aircraft. Work will be performed in Emmen, Switzerland (60%); and St. Louis, Missouri (40%). Work will be completed by February 2023”.

Feb. 25, 2020:  The U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center, Training Systems Division, awarded Boeing a US$93 million contract. “This contract incorporates the next three planned configurations of the operator flight program/system configuration set into the Royal Australian Air Force F-18 Hornet model F and EA-18G aircraft training systems. Additionally, this contract procures spares, support equipment, technical manual updates and on-site training. Work will be performed in St. Louis, Missouri (85%) and Amberley, Australia (15%) and is expected to be completed in February 2025”.

Feb. 26, 2020:  The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Boeing US$7,373,400 to procure “30 A1 G-Model kits and 66 A3 E-Model kits in support of F-18 Hornet models E, F and EA-18G modifications.  Work should be finished in October of 2023.

March 2, 2020:  The U.S. Defense Logistics Agency Aviation awarded Meggitt Polymers and Composites, Rockmart, Georgia, US$10,073,708 for F-18 Hornet aircraft fuel tanks. Award expiration is  Nov. 30, 2023.

March 16, 2020:  The U.S. Naval Supply Systems Command, Weapon Systems Support, awarded Raytheon US$18,189,730 “for the repair of the APG 65/73 radar systems in support of the F-18 Hornet aircraft”. Work should be finished by March of 2022.

April 7, 2020:  The Naval Air Systems Command awarded General Electric US$51,520,476 “to procure eight General Electric F414-400 spare engines, 11 afterburner modules and 12 low pressure turbine modules for the Navy F-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft”. Completion is expected by October of 2022.

April 14, 2020:  The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Boeing US$75,141,193 “in support of the F-18 Super Hornet models E and F fighter aircraft Service Life Assessment Program and Service Life Extension Program, Phase C follow-on effort”. This “provides non-recurring engineering to assess the fatigue life of the aircraft as well as its subsystems and structures to extend the service life of the F-18 Super Hornet models E and F beyond the original design of the 6,000 flight hour service life”. Completion should be by April of 2025.

April 16, 2020:  The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Boeing US$14,578,235 “to procure 85 additional primary bleed air regulator parts kits and 439 new valves in support of F-18 Hornet combat jets (Models E/F/G) and their modifications”.  Work should be finished by August of 2021.

July 17, 2020:  The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Boeing US$12,201,000 for “the procurement of multiple flight control surfaces in support of the Boeing F-18 Super Hornet models E – G.  Kuwait funds in the amount of US$5,978,490 will be used under the Foreign Military Sales program.  Work is expected to be completed by May 2026”.

July 16, 2021: The U. S. Defense Logistics Agency Aviation awarded Boeing US$34,009,789 “firm-fixed-price delivery order against a five-year base contract with one five-year option period for F-18 Hornet aircraft spare parts”. The delivery order end date is Aug. 28, 2028.

July 23, 2021: The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division awarded Boeing US$11,995,313. “This order provides production engineering support in support of the integration and installation of weapon systems on the F-18 Hornet models E, F and EA-18G aircraft for the U.S. Navy.”  Work is expected to be completed in July of 2022.

F-18 Hornet Sales

In June of 2018  Kuwait contracted with Boeing to purchase 22 F-18 model E and 6 F-18 model F Hornet aircraft for a total of U.S.$1.5 billion with deliveries by January of 2021.

On March 22, 2019 Boeing Co. received an order worth some US$4.0 billion for 61 F-18 model E and 17 F-18 model F aircraft for the U.S. Navy.  Deliveries are to be completed by April of 2024.

Over 600 F-18 Hornet aircraft of all types have been built to date.


F-18 Hornet - Stig Anderson

RC F-18 Hornet

That’s Stig Anderson with his RC F-18 Hornet from Skymaster Jet.  Its wingspan is 67 in. and length is 90 in.  It needs a jet turbine engine producing from 25 to 35 lbs. of thrust

The Freewing RC F-18 Hornet has a wingspan of 38 in. and is 55 in. long.  Included is a 3748 – 1850 kV motor turning a 70 mm fan unit, retracts, flaps, nav lights, drop tanks, missiles and nav lights.  Weight is about 6 3/4 lbs.

FMS has an RC F-18 Hornet with a wingspan of 34 1/2 in. and a length of 46 3/4 in.  It features flaps and retracts with a 2860 – 1850 kV motor turning a 70 mm EDF.  It weighs around 74 oz.

One thought on “F-18 Hornet”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.