McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F/A-18C and D Hornets

First FA-18C _164709_VMFA-323_03-2016_Tankerflight Westcoast

This is Part 2 of a multi-part history of the F/A-18 Hornet by Peter Boschert

McDonnell Douglas F / A-18C / D Hornet
This variant contains extensive improvements, which for the most part includes the internal systems. All machines now feature the new, enhanced AN / APG-73 radar and the ability to deploy AGM-84 Harpoon, AGM-65 Maverick and AIM-120 AMRAAM guided missiles. The entire avionics has been extensively modernized, including new EloKa systems were installed (AN / ALR -67 and AN / ALE-47). In addition, emphasis was placed on improved night-combat capability, which is why new night vision devices and external FLIR / target lighting pods have been integrated.

In the cockpit, a new ejection seat and two color MFDs were installed. The rear cockpit in the D variant now not only serves as a space for the flight instructor, it can now also accommodate a weapons system officer, which significantly relieves the pilot, especially in air-to-ground attacks. This concept was also implemented in parallel for the F-15E Strike Eagle. Externally, only details have been changed to the Strakes, but were also retrofitted to the A / B machines. The first flight of this version took place on 3 September 1986, the deliveries of the final series configuration began on 1 November 1989. In the following years, other parts were improved. These include multi-sensor integration software (1991), new engines (F404-GE-402 EPE, 1992), an improved version of AN / APG-73 (1994), a GPS receiver (1995) ), as well as a new IFF and INS system (1991 and 1997 respectively). In addition, radar-absorbing materials (RAM) have been applied at critical locations to enhance the stealth capabilities of the machine. The last machines were delivered in the year 2000. The F/A-18C/D has slowly come to the limit of their flight hours, currently (as of March 2015) are already 46 F/A-18C in AMARG, it will be almost every day as more squadrons are set up with Super Hornets as originally planned has been.

McDonnell Douglas F / A-18C +
Over the last few years, 30 of the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base have re-activated F / A-18C and modified it on the Cecil Field Naval Air Station, giving it a service life of 8,000 flight hours, more than 2000 planned. New avionics and a new Raytheon radar will be installed. It is planned to use the USMC. US Navy F / A-18C / D squadrons VFC-12 “Fighting Omars” (Aggressor Staffel NAS Oceana) VFA-106 “Gladiators” (training team NAS Oceana) VFA-204 “River Rattlers” (reserve CVWR-20) on request Aggressor, Naval Air Station New Orleans Joint Reserve Base NSAWC NAS Fallon (fly all FA / 18 Hornet and Super Hornet types) These squadrons will probably be upgrading to the F-35C “Lightning II”, which will take a few more years to get all the squadrons upgraded. The US Navy plans to deploy the first aircraft carrier squadron at the end of 2015, with the first tests on aircraft carriers scheduled for the end of 2014. The first training relay, VF-101, was officially launched on October 2, 2013 in Eglin with two F-35Cs. 260 F-35C are currently planned for the US Navy.

US Marines F / A-18C squadrons
VMFA-112 “Cowboys” NAS JRB Fort Worth (F / A-18A)
VMFA-115 “Silver Eagles” MCAS Beaufort Marine Aircraft Group 29 (MAG-29)
VMFA-122 “Werewolves” MCAS Beaufort Marine Aircraft Group 29 (MAG-29)
VMFA-232 “Red Devils” MCAS Miramar Marine Aircraft Group 11 (MAG-11)
VMFA-251 “Thunderbolt” MCAS Beaufort Marine Aircraft Group 29 (MAG-29)
VMFA-312 “Checkerboards” MCAS Beaufort Marine Aircraft Group 29 (MAG-29) CVW-17 NA CVN-71
VMFA-314 “Black Knights” MCAS Miramar Marine Aircraft Group 11 (MAG-11)
VMFA-323 “Death Rattlers” MCAS Miramar Marine Aircraft Group 11 (MAG-11) CVW-11 NH  CVN-68

The US Marines will get another 80 F-35Cs with their 340 F-35Bs, which will enable them to fly from aircraft carriers. At the moment it is VMFA-251 “Thunderbolts” (MCAS Beaufort) deployed on a carrier. In the past, VMFA-232 Marines are “Red Devils” (MCAS Miramar), VMFA-323 are “Death Rattlers” (MCAS Miramar) and VMFA-312 are “Checkerboards” (MCAS Beaufort). For deployment on aircraft carriers, there are two squadrons from the east and two from the west coast.

McDonnell Douglas F / A-18D Night Attack and F / A-18D (RC) Hornet
The US Marines procured 60 F / A-18D Night Attack, equipped with Hughes AN / AAR-50 thermal imaging device, a Loral AN / AAS-38 Nite Hawk FLIR targeting pod, and night vision goggles. Some of these Night Attack Hornets were converted to reconnaissance, they had cameras in the nose instead of the cannon. From the year 2000, the improved Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance System (ATARS) has been retrofitted to a total of 18 machines. It works in the visible and infrared spectral range and is equipped with two digital storage media. In the course of an upgrade program, a connection was made to the AN / APG-73 in order to be able to save the SAR radar images obtained as well. Under the hull an external container is attached, which allows the immediate transfer of the obtained data over a digital data link. One recognizes these F / A-18D directly at the changed front. Previously, these Hornets were stationed only at the VMFA (AW) -224 “Bengals” in Beaufort, South Carolina, today each VMFA (AW) squadron has three of these reconnaissance Hornets in its portfolio and a handful are now flying in the training squad VMFAT-101 “Sharpshooters “. The first VMFA (AW) squadron is now also renamed VMFA and flies on the MCAS Yuma the latest model of the US Marines, the F-35B.

VMFA (AW) -225 “Vikings” MCAS Miramar Marine Aircraft Group 11 (MAG-11)
VMFA (AW) -242 “Bats” MCAS Miramar Marine Aircraft Group 11 (MAG-11)
VMFA (AW) -224 “Bengals” MCAS Beaufort Marine Aircraft Group 29 (MAG-29)
VMFA (AW) -533 “Hawks” MCAS Beaufort Marine Aircraft Group 29 (MAG-29)

Thank yous and Acknowledgements
Big thanks to the PAO’s of NAS Oceana (visits 1998-2007) and Troy Snead, NAS Fallon (visits 1993-2015) and Zip Upham, NAS Lemoore (visits 2005-2008) and Dennis McGrath, then to the PAO’ s CVN-68 USS Nimitz (2007 and 2009), CVN-69 USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (visits 2006), CVN-71 USS Theodore Roosevelt (visits 2005 and 2009), CVN-75 USS Harry S. Truman (visit 2010) CVN-76 USS Ronald Reagan (2008 Ron Flanders visit) and CVN-77 George HW Bush (Visit 2011), Nellis AFB PAO, Luke AFB, Matthew Clements (Picture F / A-18E / F VX-23 and USNTPS)

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Peter Boschert

Peter is a photographer covering events in the United States and in Europe. He likes to cover Nellis AFB, NAS Fallon and RAF Lakenheath.

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