McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet

TYPE: Multirole fighter

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: United States of America

POWERPLANTS: F/A-18C - Two 71.2kN (16,000lb) with afterburning General Electric F404-GE-400 turbofans, or since 1992 two 78.7kN (17,700lb) F404-GE-402 EPEs.

PERFORMANCE: F/A-18C - Max speed over Mach 1.8 or approx 1915km/h (1033kt). Max initial rate of climb 45,000ft/min. Combat ceiling approx 50,000ft. Unrefuelled ferry range over 3335km (1800nm). Interdiction combat radius hi-lo-hi 537km (290nm), attack mission combat radius 1065km (575nm), combat radius on an air-to-air mission 740km (400nm). CAP endurance from an aircraft carrier 1hr 45min.

WEIGHTS: F/A-18C - Empty 10,810kg (23,832lb), max takeoff approx 25,400kg (56,000lb).

DIMENSIONS: Wing span 11.43m (37ft 6in), length 17.07m (56ft Oin), height 4.66m (15ft 4in). Wing area 37.2m2 (400.Osq ft).

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only, or two in tandem in F/A-18B/D.

ARMAMENT: One M61A1 Vulcan 20mm cannon. F/A-18C can carry 7030kg (15,500lb) of ordnance, including AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-120 Amraam AAMs, AGM-65 Maverick ASMs, AGM-88 HARM anti radiation missiles, AGM-84 Harpoon anti ship missiles, bombs, cluster bombs, rockets and laser guided bombs.

OPERATORS: Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain, Switzerland, USA.

HISTORY: Designed for both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, the multirole Hornet is a potent fighter and accurate attack aircraft.

In August 1974 the US Congress cancelled the US Navy's VFAX program for a new low cost lightweight multirole fighter, and instead recommended that the service should study developments of the General Dynamics YF-16 and Northrop YF-17 developed for the US Air Force. Neither of these companies had experience building carrier aircraft, so McDonnell Douglas teamed with Northrop to offer a developed F-17 while Vought teamed with GD.

McDonnell Douglas, with Northrop as a major associate (major contractor from 1985), was selected to develop its enlarged YF-17 proposal on May 2 1975. Initially the aircraft was to be built in F-18 fighter and ground attack A-18 versions, but the two roles were combined into the one airframe, resulting in the F/A-18 Hornet. The first of 11 development Hornets first flew on November 18 1978.

The F/A-18 is bigger and heavier than the YF-17. Features include fly-by-wire, an advanced cockpit with a HUD and HOTAS, a multi mode Hughes APG-65 radar, folding wingtips and two GE F404 turbofans.

The improved F/A-18C first flew in 1986. Changes include improved avionics, a new central computer and AIM-120 and AGM-65 compatibility. The US Marines operate Night Attack F/A-18C/Ds with NVG compatibility and carrying FUR and laser designator pods. Marine F/A-18D two seaters have a dedicated mission capable rear cockpit with two large colour multi function displays and a colour moving map with no flight controls (although these can be added), while USMC F/A-18D(RC)s are wired to carry a reconnaissance pod. Uprated GE F404-GE-402 engines were introduced from 1992, the improved APG-73 radar from 1994.


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