McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 General
McDonnell Douglas F/A-18
All-weather multi-role fighter
Crew F/A-18C
Crew F/A-18D
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McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Program Milestones
MD contracted
May 2, 1975
Production Start
Roll-out F-18 Hornet
September 13, 1978
Maiden Flight
November 18, 1978
Maiden Flight F-18B
December, 1979
October 25, 1982
First User
Canadian Air Force
Primary User
US Navy, US Marine Corps

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Aircraft Dimensions
Wing Span
40 feet (12,3 m)
56 feet (17,1 m)
15 feet 4 inch (4,7 m)
Wing Area
400 square feet

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Weights
Empty Weight
24.700 lb (11.200 kg)
37.150 lb (16.850 kg)
Maximum Take-off Weight
51.550 lb (23.400 kg)

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Powerplants
2 x F404-GE-402 Turbofans
17.751 lbf

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Radius & Performance
Combat Radius
290 nm (537 km)
Ferry Radius
1.800 nm (3.330 km)
Service Ceiling
50.000 feet
Maximum Speed - Sea Level
Mach 1.2 (915 mph)
Maximum Speed - Altitude
Mach 1.8 (1.127 mph)
Maximum Rate of Climb
254 m/s
Thrust to Weight - F404

F/A-18 Unit Costs
US $ - 35 million (2003)

F/A-18 Operators
Australia (Royal Australian Air Force)
Canada (Canadian Forces Air Command)
Finland (Suomen Ilmavoimat)
Kuwait (Al Quwwat Aj Jawwaiya Al Kuwaitiya)
Malaysia (Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia)
Spain (Ejército del Aire)

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18
The F/A-18 Hornet, formerly McDonnell Douglas and currently Boeing, is a modern designed carrier-capable fighter jet with the ability to operate in all-weather conditions. The aircraft was designed during the 1970's primarily for the United States Navy and Marine Corps though the Hornet is used by a wide variety of other nations as well. Besides being a combat aircraft, it is frequently used for aerial displays and forms an integral part of the Blue Angles fleet since 1986. Its versatility has proven it to be a valuable addition to carrier assets and air forces worldwide. Although the F/A-18 hornet is praised for its maneuverability, the aircraft is critized for its lack of payload and range compared to other similar designs. A distinctive upgrade to the F/A-18 Hornet is the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and serves a complementary role with Hornets in the US Navy. The F/A-18 currently fulfills the following types of assignments serving the armed services of a total of eight nations; close air support, day and night strike missions, reconnaissance, fighter escort, forward air controls and suppression of enemy air defences.(Back to the aircraft database)

A Malasian McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet approaches after a training mission
The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet prior to toch-down
Two McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft flying in formation

F/A-18 Design
The twin-engined F/A-18 is a multi-mission tactical combat aircraft. Its superb maneuverability is mainly achieved by its good thrust to weight ratio (0.96), fly-by-wire control system and leading edge extensions (LEX). The LEX allows the Hornet to fly at high angles of attack whilst still being controllable. This is achieved by the LEX creating powerful vortices over the top-wing, energizing the boundary layer by creating turbulent airflow and thus delaying airflow separation which could result in stalling the aircraft. Because of this, the Hornet is capable of flying at extremely high bank angles over a large range of speeds. Because of its extreme maneuverablity, the Hornet was put to an extensive testing program and the F-18 HARV was used to flight-validate its high angle-of-attack handling qualities.

Another characteristic of the F/A-18 are the canted vertical stabilizers which also contribute to its excellent high angle-of-attack capability together with oversized horizontal stabilizers, oversized trailing edge flaps (used as flaperons), full-length leading-edge flaps and a distinctive flight control computer that multiplies control output at low speeds and moves vertical rudders both inboard and outboard instead of simply left and right.

The F/A-18 Hornet was one of the first aircraft ever to utilize multi-function displays. The use of these displays allows the pilot to perform either fighter or attack roles at the switch of a button. Besides this, it gives the operator a more flexible working environment in employing the aircraft in a rapidly changing combat scenario. Maintenance means both time and money and with this in mind the aircraft was designed in a way it would require less downtime than many of its counterparts like the F-14 "Tomcat" and A-6 "Intruder". Basically this means that the failure time increases by three times compared to any other Navy strike aircraft while reducing maintenance time to half.

The Hornet is powered by either the General Electric F404-GE-400 or F404-GE-402 and were designed with reliability, operability and maintainability in mind. The result is an engine that has excellent performance under a variety of conditions and is resistant to both stall and flameout. Like the F-16, the engine air inlets are of fixed geometry while those on comparable aircraft like the F-14 and F-15. Variable inlet duct geometry enable high-speed aircraft to keep air velocity within the engine below the speed of sound. This is a problem with the Hornet and it uses bleed air vents on the inboard surface of the engine intake in order to slow and reduce the amount of air reaching the engine. Although this is not as good as an intake with variable geometry, it functions well enough to achieve speeds just below Mach 2.

F/A-18 Armament
The F/A-18 has an impressive armament suite with a wide range of air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles. It has the ability to switch rapidly between intercept mode and ground strike mode. It has nine weapon stations which include; two Sidewinder wingtip stations, two outboard wing stations for air-to-air or air-to-ground weapons, two inboard wing stations for additional fuel tanks, air-tot-air or air-to-ground weapons, two AMRAAM/Sparrow nacelle fuselage stations and one centerline station for fuel or air-to-ground weapons.
A McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet performs a barrel roll
Its primary weapons are the AIM-9 "Sidewinder" and AIM-7 "Sparrow". Operating in ground attack mode means that the Hornet can carry an array of ordnance on a total of four underwing pylons and centerline station.

Air-to-Ground missiles   Bombs
AGM-45 Shrike   CBU-87 Cluster
AGM-65 Maverick   CBU-89 Gator mine
SLAM-ER   Paveway (Laser Guided)
Taurus Missile   Mk 80 series
Air-to-Air missiles   Nuclear Bombs
AIM-9 Sidewinder   Mk 20 Rockeye II Cluster
AIM-120 AMRAAM   Mines
AIM-132 ASRAAM   Anti-Ship missiles
AIM-7 Sparrow   AGM-84 Harpoon
1 x 20 mm Vulcan (578 rounds)    

Nations utilizing the F/A-18

The Royal Australian Air Force had a total of 75 F/A-18 fighter jets in service (57 single-seat, 18 two-seat trainers). Untill today they still have 71 in service while 4 were lost due to crashes. The first aircraft to join the Air Force was delivered in October 1984. A couple were deployed during coalition operations in Afghanistan. The total fleet is expected to be retired by 2015 after which they are replaced by the F-35 Lightning II.
The Canadian Forces Air Command has 138 Hornets in operations. Currently the fleet is being upgraded in order to extend service up to 2018/2020.
A total of 62 aircraft is deployed by the Suomen Ilmavoimat. Its first aircraft was delivered in June 1995.
40 Aircraft are in operation by the Al Quwwat Aj Jawwaiya Al Kuwaitiya and delivery started in October 1991.
The Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia operates a total of 8 F/A-18D fighter aircraft.
A total of 72 EF-18 and 24 F/A-18 aircraft are in operation with the Spanish Air Force. Delivery started in late 1985.