Plane: F/A-18A Hornet
Model Service Dates: 1981-present
Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas Corporation; St. Louis, MO
Nicknames: “Bug,” “Plastic Bug”
Function: Carrier-based, all-weather fighter/attack; Close-air support; Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD); fighter escort; air interdiction; aerial reconnaissance
F/A-18A Aircraft History
The F/A-18 Hornet was the culmination of the lessons the Navy learned from the Vietnam War. The need for both maneuverable fighters and close air support aircraft was greater than they expected, even though they had the A-4 Skyhawk and A-6 Intruder.
As a result, air superiority fighters like the F-4 Phantom II were upgraded both to improve their maneuverability and so they could double as ground attack aircraft. Additionally, the international success of the cheap and lightweight F-5 also influenced the design, as the initial proposal called for a lightweight, multipurpose fighter. In fact, the prototype on which the F-18 was based, the YF-17, was designed by Northrop, just like the F-5.
The F/A-18 was the first aircraft designed to carry out both the fighter and attack roles. It had both the maneuverability to engage other fighters and the ability to attack ground targets. It replaced the F-4 Phantom II and F-14 Tomcat as fighters, and the A-6 Intruder and A-7 Corsair II as attack fighters. This, combined with its ease of maintenance, makes it highly cost-effective and versatile. It can carry a wide variety of weapons, allowing it to respond quickly to a rapidly changing battlefield. In addition to service in the air forces of America’s allies, the Navy and Marine Corps have also used it in Operations Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom.
The F/A-18A was developed at the same time as the F/A-18B, a two-seated version used primarily for training. The additional seat was the only change between the A and B. Another single and double seat pair, the F/A-18C and D, were developed in 1987. The C and D introduced systems that allowed it to fire AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and Maverick air-to-ground missiles. Two years later, additional upgrades improved its night attack and low-visibility capabilities by adding night vision goggles and ground-mapping radar. The D could also be used for training, but it was used in combat more often than the F/A-18B. The co-pilot operates the weapons and sensors systems, allowing it to more efficiently carry out missions like forward air control and reconnaissance. The newest variants of the F/A-18E and F Super Hornets. Again, the E is single-seat while the F is a two-seater. The Super Hornets are 25% bigger, making room for additional fuel and weapons. Importantly, this also leaves room for future advances, extending the F/A-18’s service life.
Bureau Number: 161749
This F/A-18A was the 77th built by McDonnell Douglas. It was accepted by the Marine Corps in 1983 and was sent to the first USMC Hornet squadron, the “Black Knights” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 (VMFA-314) at MCAS El Toro, California. It spent its entire career at VMFA-314 and was removed from service in 1996 and sent to this museum. This aircraft is on loan from the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
Specifications F/A 18A
Length: 56 ft, 0 in
Wing Span: 37 ft, 6 in
Height: 15 ft, 4 in
Max Speed: 1,134 kts (1,305 mph)
Rate of climb: 44,300 ft/min
Ceiling: 50,000 ft
Range: 2,001 nm (2,303 mi)
Crew: 1 pilot
Powerplant: 2 × General Electric F404-GE-400
Thrust: 10,600 lbs each, dry; 16,016 lbs each, AB
Cannon: M61 20mm Vulcan – 570 rounds
Missiles: AIM-9L/M Sidewinder; AIM-120 AMRAAM; AIM-7F Sparrow; AGM-62 Walleye; AGM-65 Maverick; AGM-84 Harpoon; AGM-88 HARM
Rockets: 5 in. Zuni Rocket Pod
Bombs: MK-82 500 lb GP; MK-83 1,000 lb GP; MK-84 2,000 lb GP; GBU-10, 12, 16 Paveway; MK-20 Rockeye II Cluster; CBU-59 BLU-77 Cluster; CBU-78 BLU-91/BLU-92 Cluster; MK-77 750 lb Incendiary
External Stations: 9 – 6 wing, 3 fuselage
13,700 lbs total load