McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F/A-18A and B Hornet

T FA-18A_162472_NSAWC_02-2009

This is Part 1 of a multi-part history of the F/A-18 Hornet by Peter Boschert

Originally, this model was developed for the USAF, the roots of the F / A-18 lie in a study begun in 1966 by Northrop for a successor to the Northrop F-5. The goal of the study, led by Lee Begin JR, was to be a light, agile and fast air superiority fighter, with two different teams each working on a single and twin engine (the names for the prototypes were P-610 and P-600, respectively). A first mock-up was presented in 1971 at the Paris Air Show and was called Cobra. Northrop wanted to build the first prototype in 1972, but this was associated with high costs.

The subsequent call for tenders explicitly followed only demonstration purposes. Since Northrop was the driving force behind the program, the twin-engine P-600 fitted perfectly with the requirements of the US Air Force. On April 13, 1972, this then awarded the contracts for two prototypes to Northrop (designation: YF -17) and General Dynamics (YF -16). Both companies received $ 38 million for this. In January 1975, the USAF announced that the F-16 intends to put F-16 into service. It also became a popular aircraft for export, with over 4500 jets sold worldwide today.

Although Northrop has lost the competition in the USAF but the US Navy has been looking for a successor to the A-7E and F-4 Phantom at this time. You also needed a light fighter to complete the F-14 Tomcat. The US Navy usually flies airplanes with two engines and the stick in the middle. Northrop had no experience with carrier aircraft and they cooperated with McDonnel Douglas from now on. The US Navy ordered 11 pre-series machines (no one-seater and two two-seater). The most fundamental changes have been made to the landing gear, catch hook, airframe and wings. The suspension was reinforced and got like all Navy aircraft twin tires front for the catapult shoe, the wings were provided with a folding mechanism and it was installed a stable fishing hook. This is not just built on the plane, it is in large part connected to the cell in order to withstand the high loads. The entire cell was basically redesigned and designed for operation on aircraft carriers. Increased reliability and simplified maintenance have also been required as aircraft carrier maintenance is a much more critical part of the deployment process than on land.

On November 18, 1978, the first prototype, now called the F / A-18 Hornet, took off with the MDD chief test pilot Jack Krings aboard. The last prototype was delivered in March 1980, whereby the test program lasted until October 1982. The inflation of the 1970s led to high costs of this armaments program. At the same time, the requirements of the Navy for a gain in weight, which significantly reduced the flight performance despite improved engines (so the range was about 8% below the specifications). The first unit to receive the new McDonnel Douglas F / A-18 Hornet was the VMFA-314 “Black Knights” of the United States Marine Corps. The unit was declared fully operational on January 7, 1983.

McDonnell Douglas F / A-18A/B Hornet
A total of 380 F / A-18A’s were built, first flight in November 1978, commissioned January 1983. The McDonnell Douglas F / A-18 was designed primarily for use on the aircraft carriers of the Nimitz class of the United States Navy. With its flexibility in fighting long-range ground, sea and air targets, it is the most important offensive and defensive component of a US aircraft carrier battle group. Mach 1.8 fast, with a 20mm M61 Vulcan cannon, two General Electric F404 engines. The radar used the AN /APG-65, for the electronic countermeasures was used a composite of the AN / ALR-50 radar warning device, the AN / ALQ-126B jamming system and the AN / ALE-39 decoy launcher. For the warning of approaching from behind rockets is a suitably oriented missile detector type AN /AAR-38 used. The communication takes place via a VHF / UHF radio system. For navigation, a TACAN and INS system is available. The F / A-18 Hornet was the first production aircraft to feature multifunction displays. The three CRT screens allowed the pilot to get a much better and more customized view of the situation, resulting in less workload and improved situational awareness. The joystick and throttle are HOTAS-designed to enhance the usability of weapons and sensor systems in combat situations. A head-up display is also available. Aircraft of the Navy always have a joystick in the middle because even a wounded pilot must be able to fly his plane. The cockpit canopy is “bubble shaped” to ensure rear view. By default, the pilot wears an HGU-55 pilot helmet with integrated oxygen mask. It can also be attached to special night vision devices. The ejection seat (type: SJU-5A) is manufactured by Martin Baker and contains part of the emergency equipment needed to survive and communicate in the event of exiting enemy territory. In today’s remaining Hornet, the pilots usually fly with the HGU-68 / P and JHMCS helmets. Today there are 65 F / A-18A Hornets and 3 F / A-18B Hornets in the AMARG, about 85 have been crashed or disassembled, then there are about 20 in museums, the rest in naval places in s storage or parts.

McDonnell Douglas F / A-18A + Hornet
Due to the daily use of the McDonnell Douglas F / A-18A Hornet, the flying hours of the first Hornets became more and more, one did not know at that time exactly where the journey with the F-35 goes and when it is actually put into service, therefore modernized Some McDonnell Douglas F / A-18A Hornet with the new AN / APG -73-Bordradar and changed a lot in the cockpit. The cell also got a refresher to be ready for additional flight hours. There are still a handful of F / A-18A + on duty today, VFA-204 “River Rattlers”, VFC-12 “Fighting Omars”, VFC-13 “Saints” and NSAWC. They fly their remaining flying hours with the US Navy’s aggressor squadrons. These squadrons also fly a mix of McDonnel Douglas F / A-18A + and F / A-18C Hornet.

McDonnell Douglas F / A-18A ++ Hornet
This upgrade was made only for Hornets of the US Marines. These changes came very close to the F / A-18C. Glass cockpit, new radar, structural enhancement and stronger engines. Unfortunately, the exact number of F / A-18A ++ is unknown. At the moment, VMFA-112 “Cowboys”, VMFA-115 “Silver Eagles” and VMFA-314 “Black Knights” use some of these Hornets. The squadrons usually fly a mix of F / A-18C and F / A-18A ++ (VMFA-314 “Black Knights” seen on my visit to Miramar in March 2015).

Big thanks to the PAO's of NAS Oceana (visits 1993-2007) and Troy Snead, NAS Fallon (visits 1993-2018) and Zip Upham, NAS Lemoore (visits 2005-2008) and Dennis McGrath, then to the PAO' s CVN-65 USS Enterprise (2012), 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 (2010 visit), CVN-76 USS Ronald Reagan (2008 Ron Flanders visit) and CVN-77 George HW Bush (Visit 2011), Nellis AFB PAO, Luke AFB, Edwards AFB John Haire and Peter Merlin (NASA), NAS Miramar (1990-1994) MCAS Miramar 2007-2016 Melanie Salinas.
Matthew Clements (Picture F / A-18E / F VX-23 and USNTPS)

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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