The F/A-18 Hornet in World War III

The McDonnell-Douglas F/A-18 Hornet was the first multirole combat aircraft for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, intended to replace both the F-4 Phantom and A-7 Corsair II in Navy service, and the F-4 in the USMC. Capable of performing as a fighter and attack aircraft on the same mission, the Hornet had been in both Navy and Marine service at the outbreak of war, and production continued at the Northrop plant in El Segundo, CA, as a joint venture between McDonnell-Douglas and Northrop. The aircraft was also in service with Australia and Canada during the war, and attracted several export sales after the war. This work covers the Hornet's wartime service, and the postwar development, the F/A-18E/F, which saw service in postwar conflicts beginning in 2002.

A list of Hornet variants

F/A-18A: Initial production version with APG-65 radar, AIM-7 Sparrow and AGM-88 HARM capability. First operational squadrons were VMFA-314 and VMFA-531 in 1983. USN squadrons VFA-25 and VFA-113 followed. USN and USMC squadrons replaced F-4s during the war as attrition reduced the F-4S/N fleet. Used also by Australia. 

F/A-18B: Two-seat training version of A, originally designated TF-18. Fully combat capable. 

F/A-18C: Updated version of A, with improved radar and avionics. AIM-120, AGM-65, AGM-84. AA/AAN-50 FLIR pod, AA/AAS-38 FLIR Nite Hawk targeting pod. Updated with APG-73 radar and ALQ-165 ASPJ ECM system. 

F/A-18D: Two-seat version of D. Some used by USMC as “Fast FAC” aircraft during the war. 

CF-188A/B: Canadian version of F/A-18A/B. Licensed production during the war by Canadair. Primary CAF/RCAF fighter until arrival of F-15C. 

RF-18A: Reconnaissance version of F/A-18A with cameras, IR. Replaced RF-8G in USN service. 

RF-18D: USMC two-seat reconnaissance version. Replaced RF-4B in USMC service. 

F/A-18E: Totally new aircraft, procured as F/A-18A replacement. Larger airframe and wing, more internal fuel, two additional wing stores stations, F414 engine, APG-73 radar initially, with APG-79 AESA radar later. Also used by Australia. 

F/A-18F: Two-seat version of E, used for either training, or without flight controls, as strike aircraft. Mooted by McAir as A-6F replacement if VAX program is canceled. 

EA-18G: Heavily modified F converted to Electronic Attack mission as EA-6B Prowler replacement. In USN and RAAF service. 

Wartime Operators of the Hornet 

United States Navy (US Navy)

United States Marine Corps (USMC)

Royal Australia Air Force (A/B, E/F, EA-18G)

Royal Canadian Air Force (CAF/RCAF)

Postwar Operators of the Hornet

Finnish Air Force (C/D)

Kuwait Air Force (C/D)

Royal Malaysian Air Force (C/D)

Spanish Air Force (Original order for A/B requisitioned by USN during the war, replaced with C/D afterward) 

Swiss Air Force (C/D)