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    F/A-18 Hornet: The Iconic Jet’s Legacy of Naval Dominance and Versatility

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    The F/A-18 Hornet has been a symbol of U.S. naval air power for four decades. This iconic aircraft, born from the Navy’s Fighter-Attack, Experimental (VFAX) program, has etched its name in military aviation history with its adaptability, reliability, and combat prowess.

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    GULF OF OMAN (Feb.16, 2010) Cmdr. Thomas Bush, commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131, executes a high-speed fly-by in an F/A-18C Hornet over the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) during a change of command ceremony. Bush was relieved by Cmdr. Benjamin Hewlett. Dwight D. Eisenhower is conducting a scheduled six-month deployment as a part of the on-going rotation of forward-deployed forces. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chad R. Erdmann/Released)

    From its first flight in the late 1970s to its last operational deployment in 2018, the Hornet has been more than just an aircraft; it has been a stalwart guardian of the skies.

    A U.S. Navy F/A-18C Hornet aircraft assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 83 launches off the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) May 22, 2013, in the Arabian Sea. The ship was deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility to promote maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Lauren Booher/Released)

    The Hornet’s story is one of evolution and excellence. Designed to replace older models such as the A-7 Corsair II and to complement the legendary F-14 Tomcat, the F/A-18 was a testament to the ingenuity of McDonnell Douglas and Northrop Grumman.

    A U.S. Navy F/A-18C Hornet aircraft assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 83 launches off the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) May 22, 2013, in the Arabian Sea. The ship was deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility to promote maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Lauren Booher/Released)

    With cost-effectiveness in mind, the U.S. Navy allocated funds from the Air Force’s Lightweight Fighter Program to develop what would be a new Naval Air Combat Fighter, capable of performing both attack and fighter roles.

    An F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The resulting aircraft, the F/A-18 Hornet, featured significant modifications for carrier operations, catapult attachments, strengthened landing gear, and folding wings that gave it a distinct edge.

    Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet” by San Diego Shooter is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Its ease of maintenance was unparalleled, requiring half the maintenance time compared to its predecessors.

    “The platform was powered by General Electric F404 engines, which were cutting-edge at the time,” adding to its reliability and performance.

    Boeing F/A-18E ‘Super Hornet’” by aeroman3 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    The Hornet’s multifunction displays were revolutionary, allowing pilots to switch seamlessly between fighter or attack roles.

    An F/A-18F Super Hornet performs an arrested landing aboard USS Gerald R. Ford.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Its first combat engagements came in the mid-1980s against Libyan air defenses, and during the 1991 Gulf War, it proved its mettle by securing two aerial victories against MiG-21s. These engagements showcased the Hornet’s versatility and its critical role in maintaining aerial superiority.

    Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet VFA-32 Fighting Swordsmen 166667 / 105” by Vortex Photography – Duncan Monk is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The Hornet not only served in combat but also became a symbol of American air power and precision through the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron.

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    Pacific Ocean (Nov. 1, 2004) – An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the ÒBounty HuntersÓ of Strike Fighter Squadron Two (VFA-2), lower right, and an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the ÒMaraudersÓ of Strike Fighter Squadron Eight Two (VFA-82), conducts in-flight refueling from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the Alaska Air National Guard. Both fighter aircraft are assigned to Carrier Air Wing Two (CVW-2), currently embarked aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Perry Solomon (RELEASED)

    The Hornet is the longest-serving aircraft with the squadron, having replaced the A-4 Skyhawk in 1986. This transition marked the Hornet’s place not just in combat but also in the hearts and minds of the public.

    An F/A-18E Super Hornet prepares to launch from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    While the last operational Hornet flight occurred in 2019, its legacy lives on through the Super Hornet variant, which continues to be a critical asset for the U.S. Navy.

    An F/A-18F Super Hornet launches from USS Harry S. Truman.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The Super Hornet, boasting updated avionics and enhancements, demonstrates the Hornet family’s ability to adapt to the changing demands of modern warfare.

    A French Rafale F-3R, right, flies alongside an F/A-18E Super Hornet over the Mediterranean Sea.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The F/A-18 Hornet’s service record is a testament to its design and the strategic foresight of the U.S. Navy.

    F/A-18E Super Hornets attached to the Royal Maces of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27 prepare for launch aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) in the Philippine Sea.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    As defense analyst Maya Carlin noted, “Throughout the years, consistent upgrades to the Hornet series of jets has helped the platform retain an edge over competitors.

    Relevant articles:
    The F/A-18 Hornet Is a U.S. Navy Fighter Jet Legend That Dominates, The National Interest
    18: Hornet, United States Navy (.mil)
    7 of the deadliest fighter jets still in active service, Interesting Engineering
    Why the F/A-18 Is Such a Badass Plane, Popular Mechanics

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