Following a production run of more than 400 F/A-18A/Bs,
deliveries of the single-seat F/A-18C and two-seat F/A-18D began
in October 1987. The F/A-18C/Ds incorporated provisions for
employing updated missiles and jamming devices against enemy
ordnance. They are armed with the AIM- 120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) and the infrared-imaging version of the AGM- 65 Maverick air-to-ground tactical missile.
The Hornet will continue to fill Navy carrier air wings for
years to come, gradually giving way to the F/A-18E/F Super
Hornet and F- 35 Lightning II. Marines will continue to operate
F/A-18A++/C/C+/Ds until they are replaced by F-35s. The last
Hornet, an F/A-18D, rolled off the Boeing production line in
The Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) program of
record continues to be successful. The majority of operating
F/A-18A-D Hornets are receiving modifications to extend their
service lives beyond 8,000 flight hours; a subset of the aircraft
will be modified to attain the 10,000 flight-hour goal. In addition to modifications, all fleet aircraft will need to incorporate
the high-flight-hour-inspection suite prior to exceeding 8,000
flight hours to ensure safety of flight and airworthiness.
The F/A- 18 Hornet is employed in Navy and Marine Corps
Strike Fighter squadrons and in the air forces of Australia,
Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain and Switzerland. A
total of 1,503 F/A-18A-D Hornets were produced.
As of October 2015, the Navy and Marine Corps had 572
F/A-18A-D aircraft in service and in test roles, of which 23 F/A-
18Cs are stored and planned for avionics upgrades that began in
2015. Legacy Hornets equip 17 active Navy and Marine Corps
squadrons, one Navy and one Marine Corps Reserve VFA/VMFA
squadron, two Fleet Readiness VFA/VFMA squadrons, one Navy
Reserve Fighter Composite squadron, three VX squadrons, the
Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron (Blue Angels) and the
Naval Air Warfare Development Center.
WINGSPAN:.................. 40. 4 feet
LENGTH:...................... 56 feet
HEIGHT: ....................... 15. 3 feet
WEIGHT: ....................... 51,900 pounds maximum takeoff
SPEED:.........................Mach 1. 7+
CEILING:.......................approx. 50,000 feet
RANGE:........................Hi-Lo-Lo-Hi profile radius with 3 330-gallon
external fuel tanks and 4 1,000-pound bombs:
369 nautical miles
POWER PLANT:............. 2 General Electric F404-GE-402 enhanced-
performance engines; 18,000 pounds static unin-
stalled thrust or 2 General Electric F404-GE-400
engines, 16,000 pounds static uninstalled thrust
ARMAMENT:................... 1 M61A1/M61A2 20mm gun; 14,000 pounds of
external stores; general bombs; GPS/laser-guided
bombs; air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles;
various other types of pods and mines
CREW: ..........................F/A-18A and C, 1 pilot; F/A-18B and D, 2 pilots
or 1 pilot and 1 weapons systems officer
CON TRAC TOR: ...........Boeing Co.
F-35C LIGHTNING II
BRIEFING: The F- 35 Lightning II program is designed to field
transformational strike aircraft for the Navy, Marine Corps and Air
Force that include next-generation sensors and weapons systems,
stealth characteristics and a high level of commonality among versions. The F-35C, designed for carrier operations, features a larger
wing and stronger landing gear than the F-35A being developed for
the Air Force. The F-35C will be a single-piloted strike fighter powered by the world’s most powerful fighter engine. It has an APG- 81
AESA multipurpose radar and internal bay for a low observable
cross-section and to carry precision weapons.
It also has internal Electro-Optical Targeting System Optics
to provide dual infrared imaging and infrared search and track
(IRS&T) targeting functions. The Distributed Aperture System
(DAS) provides a variety of different functions, including spherical missile approach warning, all-aspect IRS&T and an infrared
source for the night vision to be displayed on the Helmet-Mounted Display (HMD).
The head-up display found in legacy aircraft has been replaced
by the HMD as a primary flight reference. The HMD has a 30-degree
by 40-degree display that provides night vision via infrared DAS
video or night camera electro-optic video mounted on the HMD.
The Human Systems Interface is rounded out with voice
recognition, three-dimensional audio and an 8-inch by 20-inch
tactical display. The data-link suite includes two-way Link 16,
Variable Message Formatting, Multifunction Advanced Data
Link (low-probability-of-intercept, high-data-capability, F-35-
only data link) and a P- 5 training data link.
Now completing the 10th year of a 13-year systems development and demonstration phase, the F-35C is the third variant of
the aircraft to be flight tested. It will incorporate many of the
weight-saving design changes planned for the Marine Corps F-
35B short-takeoff, vertical-landing version.
The first F-35C made its first flight on June 6, 2010, and was
delivered to the test team at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent
River, Md., on Nov. 6, 2010. By mid-2011, three F-35Cs were in
testing at Patuxent River. In 2011, the F-35C completed catapult
launch and jet-blast deflector tests. In 2012, landing trials revealed
the need for a redesigned tailhook that was tested in 2013-2014.
The F-354C made its first arrested landing on USS Nimitz on Nov.
3, 2014. A second developmental test at-sea period was conducted in October 2015 on board USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Originally, the U.S. Navy was the only customer for the F-35C,
which is scheduled to reach IOC in fiscal 2018 and will begin
replacing the F/A-18A+/C Hornet on board its carriers. In 2012, the
Navy’s F- 35 readiness squadron, VFA- 101, was established at Eglin
Air Force Base, Fla., and on Oct. 1, 2013, rolled out the fleet’s first
F-35Cs. In 2011, the Marine Corps decided to procure F-35Cs. The
U.K. Royal Navy’s decision to purchase F-35Cs in lieu of F-35Bs
was reversed in 2012 in favor of the F-35B. The Navy and Marine
Corps plan to procure 260 and 63 F-35Cs, respectively.
As of October 2015, 18 F-35Cs had been delivered to the
Navy in addition to five F-35C System Development and
Demonstration aircraft. An additional 13 F-35Cs were on order
through low-rate initial production (LRIP) Lot 8, including the
first F-35C for the Marine Corps. Lot 9 ordered in November
2015 included two F-35Cs. (See the Marine Corps Aircraft section for characteristics and description of the F-35B.)