McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet

McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet

The F/A-18 Hornet came about as a US Navy replacement for late model A-4 Skyhawks, A-7 Corsair IIs, and F-4 Phantom II squadrons not replaced by the F-14 Tomcat, known as the VFAX requirement. It was also heavily influenced by the need for a fighter cheaper than the F-14. The Navy participated in the Lightweight Fighter (LWF) competition won by the F-16 Falcon, but found the F-16 unsuited for carrier operations.

With this in mind, the Navy approached Northrop and McDonnell Douglas to build a suitable multirole fighter based around the loser of the LWF competition, the YF-17 Cobra. The resulting F-18 Hornet was larger and much more versatile than the Cobra, though it retained the latter’s basic design. Initially, Hornet production was to be divided into the dedicated fighter F-18 and strike A-18, but with advances in technology, the two were combined into a single airframe as the F/A-18.

The first YF-18A flew in 1978, the production F/A-18A in 1980, and service entry in 1983, with the US Marine Corps in January and the US Navy two months later. The Hornet was found to be very agile, easy to maintain, and more than able to live up to its multirole reputation, where fighter and attack roles are integrated into the same airframe and can be switched by literally the push of a button. Its only drawback was a lack of range and initial problems with stabilator cracks; the latter was solved by strengthening the stabilators and adding small wing fences to force away air from the tail.

The F/A-18A/B was superceded on the production line in early 1987 by the C/D models, which differed from the earlier type by using an upgraded APG-65 radar, improved engines, internal ECM suite, and the ability to carry the AGM-65 Maverick, AGM-88 HARM, and AIM-120 AMRAAM, though the latter would not actually come into service until 1993. The F/A-18C/D did not see service in the Third World War and incorporated field modifications made to A/B models; those of the latter still in service by 1993 received a similar upgrade (F/A-18A+) with the addition of the APG-70 radar. USN/USMC Hornets of all types would see action over Iraq in the First Gulf War, and later Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq a second time. USMC all-weather units replaced their A-6 Intruders with F/A-18Ds, which were night attack capable with the addition of FLIR, improved multifunction displays, and lowlight goggle compatibility. The USN later followed suit, with the F-18C replacing the A-6E as well from 1995.

Though the F/A-18C/D has been supplemented by the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and is due to be replaced by the F-35 Lightning II, it will continue as the backbone of the USN/USMC for some years to come. In addition to the US, the Hornet also serves with the previously mentioned nations of Canada and Spain, as well as Australia, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, and Switzerland.

Arii’s older 1/144 scale F/A-18A kit was marketed as a production variant, but in reality it is a prototype version, without solid LERXs or strakes. (Academy and Dragon have since come out with production models of the Hornet.) This was an easy fix, filling in the LERXs and using Sidewinder fins for the strakes. I painted my Hornet in the colors of my fictional "Free Intelani Naval Air Arm," using Canadian-style camouflage rather than the US Navy’s (though there is not much variation between the two). The carrier deck is from Academy’s EF-18G kit.

Posted by The Roving Aircraft Historian on 2014-09-18 02:26:01

Tagged: , McDonnell , Douglas , F/A-18 , F-18 , Hornet , USNavy , FIRNAA

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