McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet made first flight on this day in 1978; look at aircraft role in Gulf, Iraq war

The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, which had its maiden flight on 18 November, 1978, emerged as one of the very successful 4th Generation ...

The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, which had its maiden flight on 18 November, 1978, emerged as one of the very successful 4th Generation Fighter entries of the later Cold War years.

It was designed for aircraft carrier duty and was the first tactical aircraft designed to carry out both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. The US Marines ordered it as an F-18 fighter and the Navy as an A-18 attack aircraft. It can switch roles easily and can also be adapted for photoreconnaissance and electronic countermeasure missions.

The F/A-18 Hornet was also the first aircraft to have carbon fiber wings and the first tactical jet fighter to use digital fly-by-wire flight controls. Variants included a two-seater, an improved fighter, a reconnaissance aircraft and a night-attack fighter.

The Super Hornet is a low-observable aircraft that performs multiple missions, including air superiority, day-and-night strike with precision-guided weapons, fighter escort, and close air support. It is operational in 10 U.S. Navy Carrier Air Wings (25 squadrons) and the Royal Australian Air Force.

McDonnell Douglas rolled out the first F/A-18A on 13 September 1978, in blue-on-white colours marked with "Navy" on the left and "Marines" on the right.

Background

Its first flight was on 18 November. In a break with tradition, the Navy pioneered the "principal site concept" with the F/A-18, where almost all testing was done at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, instead of near the site of manufacture, and using Navy and Marine Corps test pilots instead of civilians early in development. In March 1979, Lt. Cdr. John Padgett became the first Navy pilot to fly the F/A-18.

The aircraft can perform fighter escort, fleet air defence, suppression of enemy air defences, air interdiction, close air support, and aerial reconnaissance. Its versatility and reliability have proven it to be a valuable carrier asset, though it has been criticized for its lack of range and payload compared to its earlier contemporaries, such as the Grumman F-14 Tomcat in the fighter and strike fighter role, and the Grumman A-6 Intruder and LTV A-7 Corsair II in the attack role.

The Hornet first saw combat action during the 1986 United States bombing of Libya and subsequently participated in the 1991 Gulf War and 2003 Iraq War.

1991 Gulf War

On 17 January, the first day of the Gulf war, US Navy pilots Lieutenant Commander Mark I. Fox and, Lieutenant Nick Mongilio were in a flight of four Hornets when they were sent from USS Saratoga in the Red Sea to bomb airfield H-3 in southwestern Iraq.

En route, they were warned by an E-2C of approaching "Bandits" or Iranian MiG-21 aircraft. The Hornets shot down the two MiGs with AIM-7 and AIM-9 missiles in a brief dogfight. It took 40 seconds from when the bandits appeared on the radar of the E-2 until both aircraft were shot down.

During the 1991 war, while performing an air-to-ground mission, Hornets switched to fighter mode and destroyed two Iraqi MiG-21s in air-to-air combat, then switched back to attack mode and successfully completed their air-to-ground mission

2003 Iraq War

The aircraft once again returned in action in 2003, during the Iraq war. It was charged with attacking Iraq's defense during the US-led invasion in Iraq.

It was used during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, operating from aircraft carriers as well from an airbase in Kuwait.

With inputs from agencies

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India World News: McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet made first flight on this day in 1978; look at aircraft role in Gulf, Iraq war
McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet made first flight on this day in 1978; look at aircraft role in Gulf, Iraq war
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