With the F-22 still unfit for combat, and the F-35 probably years away from service, the brunt of U.S. air power falls to the ageing F/A-18.Having undergone extensive modifications and upgrades since its official introduction in the early 1980s, the F/A-18 comes in several variations — each of them designed to maintain America’s air superiority — over any battlefield.
From the decks of aircraft carriers, to air shows with the Blue Angels, here’s a look at the country’s premier military aircraft coveted by countries around the globe.
The government ordered the F/A-18 Hornet in 1973 to replace the hugely popular F-14 Tomcat of 'Top Gun' Fame
The F/A-18 has a stronger airframe, better fuel capacity, as well as folding wings and catapult attachments
The F/A-18Bs also come in handy when the Blue Angels want to fly a VIP around during shows in their #7 jet
The 'C' and 'D' models joined the family in September 1987 as one and two seater attack and fighter aircraft
The F/A-18C/D has improved avionics, and the capacity to carry newer missiles like the AIM-120 AMRAAM, AGM-65 Maverick, and the super-capable AGM-84 Harpoon
In addition the C/Ds have the Navy Aircrew Common Ejection Seat (NACES), self-protection jammer, and synthetic aperture ground mapping radar for poor visibility — making them more survivable and navigational in extreme situations
Better night-attack assets were added in 1989, such as night vision goggles, full-colour multi-function display, a thermal navigation pod, and forward looking infrared array targeting pods
The $29 million 'C' and 'D' generation models hit Mach 1.7 — can fly to 50,000 feet, and haven't been made in over 13 years
The next round of Hornets, the $67 million 'E' and 'Fs' are called Super Hornets and entered service in 1999
They have improved stealth, extended range, and can be refueled in air among a long list of other improvements
Which is a good thing since the F-22 still can't be flown in combat and the F-35 looks to be years away from service
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