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News | Nov. 16, 2018

F/A-18 Hornet targets 40 years of flight

By Navy Cmdr. Douglas Hool DCMA Boeing St Louis

Sunday, Nov. 18, marks the 40th anniversary of the F/A-18 Hornet’s first flight, the only aircraft to be officially designated as a fighter attack platform to highlight its multi-role combat capabilities.

The airplane began its history as the YF-17 Cobra, one of the competitors in the Lightweight Fighter competition to replace the A-4 Skyhawk and A-7 Corsair II. While the Air Force committed to the YF-16, the Navy saw so much potential in the YF-17 that it adopted the basic design for its Fighter Attack Experimental program.

The Hornet first saw combat action during the 1986 U.S. bombing of Libya and has participated in virtually every U.S. conflict since. That same year, the Hornet was chosen to replace the A-4 Skyhawk as the platform for the Blue Angels — the Navy’s flight demonstration squadron.

Perhaps Navy Capt. Paul Filardi, Defense Contract Management Agency Boeing St. Louis commander, described the program’s historical significance best in May.

“This November marks the 40th anniversary of the first F/A-18 Hornet having made its maiden flight in 1978,” said Filardi, during an interview to celebrate the 300th F/A-18E single-seat variant Super Hornet delivery to the Navy. “That is quite a milestone for what was originally a simple fighter aircraft with a basic mission. It continues to evolve today as a world-renowned, multi-mission, premier strike fighter operated by the Navy and America’s foreign partners. Throughout its entire history, the government team, we know today as DCMA, has been there the whole way.”

A total of 1,503 F/A-18A/B/C/D variants, collectively known as the Legacy Hornet, were built for the Navy, Marine Corps, NASA and multiple foreign military sales customers, including Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain and Switzerland.

The last F/A-18C was assembled in Finland and delivered to the Finnish Air Force in August 2000. The last F/A-18D was delivered to the Marine Corps that same month. The Legacy Hornet continues to serve with multiple allies, the Navy and the Marine Corps. While the Navy removed the F/A-18C from combat service following a March 2018 deployment aboard the USS CARL VINSON, the aircraft will continue to be used in reserve squadrons and for training. The Marine Corps plans to use the aircraft until the early 2030s.

The original Hornet served as the baseline for the evolutionary redesign of the currently produced F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, first flown on Nov. 29, 1995. The Super Hornet is about 20 percent larger than the original Hornet with more fuel capacity and an increased combat radius. Its larger wing provides more payload capacity with improved lift and pitch characteristics. To date, a total of 304 F/A-18E single-seat and 279 F/A-18F two-seat Super Hornets have been delivered to the Navy.

In addition, 153 EA-18G Growler aircraft, a specialized electronic attack version of the F/A-18F, have been delivered to the Navy. Twenty four F/A-18F and 12 EA-18G aircraft have also been delivered to Australia, the sole FMS customer for the Super Hornet and Growler thus far. Altogether, a total of 772 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers have been delivered.

When including all variants of the F/A-18, 2,275 aircraft have been delivered worldwide. Today, DCMA Boeing St. Louis serves an oversight role for everything from Super Hornet production, sustainment and now service life extension through the F/A-18E/F Service Life Modification program. The agency’s St. Louis-based aircrew perform acceptance test flights and deliver the aircraft to customers — Navy Fleet squadrons and FMS customers.

“Being part of the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet for the last 40 years and having our people involved in producing and delivering over 2,000 of these amazing aircraft is really quite inspirational,” said Filardi. “We have had and will continue to have a huge responsibility to the fleet to ensure they get the capabilities they require, and we look forward to the 50th anniversary of the F/A-18.”