How F/A-18S Work

An explanation of the capabilities of the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet and how the two planes compare to each other.

There are two distinct types of F/A-18's. The older F/A-18 is referred to as the Hornet and was put into use in 1980's and saw its first major action in the Gulf War. The new F/A-18 has improved upon the Hornet's capabilities and is commonly known as the Super Hornet. Both the Hornet and Super Hornet are in use today.

The F/A-18 jet was designed so that it could easily be used for multiple purposes. The jet can be outfitted to be used as a fighter or attack jet. As a fighter plane, it is ideal for intersecting and destroying enemy fighters. As an attack plane, it can be used to destroy enemy targets on the ground. The F/A-18 program was almost discontinued by the government due to the cost of production and its limited flight range.

During the Gulf War, the F/A-18 proved its importance as a vital instrument for the Air Force. The jets used in the Gulf War could be flown even when heavily damaged. Due to its durability and versatility, the F/A-18 has become one of the most important jets in the Air Force's arsenal. The F/A-18's future as the Air Forces most important plane has been enhanced with the development of the Super Hornet.

A. F/A-18 Hornet

The original version of the F/A-18 Hornet was designed to be a versatile machine that could take the place of the many specialized jets in wide use at the time. The Hornet is capable of traveling over 1200 miles in one trip. Its twin jet turbine engines can push it to a speed over Mach 1.7. It can fly over 36,000 feet high. The jet's afterburners give the plane quick boost of speed when attacking. The plane can switch from attack mode to fighter mode with the push of a button. This technology makes it possible to engage enemy fighters and bomb targets during the same mission.

The Hornet is considered a plane that is easy to fly because of its advanced computer system. The plane has a control-by-wire system which makes it possible for the pilot to concentrate on firing the weapons while the plane essentially flies itself and evades enemy fire. The computer system in the Hornet has also made the plane more cost effective because the computer's design makes it easy to upgrade without the need to replace expensive computer technology.

The pilot can rely on many advanced technological devices when flying the F/A-18 Hornet. The pilot has two separate sets of radar that give him views of what is happening on the ground and in the air. The radar picture of the air enables the pilot to respond quickly to enemy activity during an attack. The ground radar gives the pilot a clear picture of the ground regardless of weather conditions. This picture makes it possible for the pilot to bomb targets accurately.



The Hornet's cockpit is designed to give the pilot night vision. This technology gives the pilot night-attack capability. Using the Hornet's night vision capabilities, pilots can make safer bombing runs under the cover of darkness. Many of the F/A-18 Hornet's bombs are laser guided. The pilot will lock onto the target with a laser and a launch a laser guided bomb that will destroy the target. This makes bombing runs very efficient and minimizes civilian casualties.

Every Hornet has a Vulcan 20mm cannon mounted in its nose. The Vulcan cannon can fire up to 600 rounds per minute. The pilot uses the cannon to fire on targets in the air and on the ground. In addition to the Vulcan cannon, the Hornet carries two sidewinder missiles on each wingtip and can be outfitted with a wide range of rockets and bombs.

The ground crew outfits the Hornet with the type of bombs necessary to carry out their designated mission successfully. These bombs can include free falling bombs that will simply fall on a target and guided missiles with their own propulsion systems. Since the Hornet is often launched from aircraft carriers it can be outfitted with specialized bombs designed to sink ships and submarines.

The only complaint that pilots, commanders, and the military have with the Hornet's capabilities is its limited flight range. To address this problem, outside fuel tanks can be attached to the plane before take off. However, the fuel tanks take up room that could be used to carry additional bombs. When creating the Super Hornet, the military provided a 40% increase in the F/A-18's fuel carrying capacity as well as many more advances that make the Super Hornet a more effective military tool.

B. F/A - 18 Super Hornet

The Air Force has recently built a new advanced version of the F/A-18 called the Super Hornet. The Super Hornet has many capabilities that enable it to perform better in battle. One of its most important improvements is larger fuel tanks. Unlike the Hornet, the Super Hornet can re-fuel in the air. This allows a Super Hornet to fly longer missions than a Hornet. The plane also has more wing space providing a larger bomb carrying capacity.

The Super Hornet has two additional weapons stations. This gives the Super Hornet the ability to carry a better mixture of weapons for fighting in the air and striking targets on the ground. The computer system in the Super Hornet is also more advanced than in its predecessor. The computer has a more advanced weapons tracking system for better defense and more advanced targeting systems which give the plane the ability to launch advanced guided missiles.

The F/A-18 Super Hornet can fly faster, farther, and deliver a larger payload to enemy targets. It also has greater maneuverability and stability making the plane better at engaging enemy aircraft. It can carry more advanced weapons that can follow the terrain of the land and strike a target with pinpoint accuracy. The plane is also specifically designed to be a superior night fighter to the Hornet. To achieve this goal design engineers improved the night vision capabilities of the Super Hornet to give the pilot increased visual clarity for night bombing and attack missions.

The F/A-18 has been the workhorse of the United States Air Force for many years. Its durability, versatility, and capability have proven it to be a superior plane and a vital part of the Air Force's arsenal. The plane continues to see action in the many conflicts and wars that the Air Force is involved in.

The success of the Super Hornet has insured the F/A-18 a permanent place in the Air Force. Its increased speed, durability, and fighting strength make it a plane that far exceeds the capabilities of other fighter jets around the world. The older Hornets have already begun to be retired, and it is likely that the Super Hornet will completely replace the Hornet in the future. However, until that time the Hornet will continue to play a key role in American military strategy.

© High Speed Ventures 2011