The F/A-18 Is Still Defining America's Air Superiority

Photo: DoD

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 Hornet is nothing more than a modified version of this prototype YF-17 Cobra

The F/A-18 has a stronger airframe, better fuel capacity, as well as folding wings and catapult attachments

The Hornet comes in several variations, but two main variants are the one seaters and two seaters

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 F/A-18 can carry eight different types of bombs including this GBU-38 500-pound smart bomb

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

The Super Hornets are said to be almost an entirely new aircraft

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

BONUS: Hornets starred in 'Independence Day,' 'Behind Enemy Lines,' and 'Godzilla'

That's how America controls the skies

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Tagged In

defense-us features