Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How F/A-18s Work

        Science | Modern

The Super Hornet
A Super Hornet attacks.
A Super Hornet attacks.

The Hornet comes in six models designated by letters A through F. The most formidable of these models is the newest design: the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Model E takes a single pilot while the F has a second seat for a weapons system officer. The Super Hornet is a multi-mission strike fighter like the regular Hornet, but it comes equipped with some pretty impressive upgrades (with half as many parts):

  • 4.2 feet (1.3 meters) longer than earlier Hornets
  • 25 percent larger wing area
  • 33 percent more internal fuel
  • 35 percent higher thrust supplied by F414-GE-400 Engines
  • 41 percent greater mission range
  • 50 percent more endurance
  • Two additional weapon stations for carrying additional ordnance
  • Increased flexibility to mix air-to-air and/or air-to-ground ordnance
  • Complete complement of "smart" weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and Joint Stand-off Weaponry (JSOW)
  • Increased load capacity: 17,750 pounds (8,032 kg) of external load
  • Two additional wing tip stations
  • Four inboard wing stations for carrying extra fuel tanks or air-to-ground weapons
  • Two nacelle fuselage stations for carrying sensor pods
  • All-weather, air-to-air radar and a control system for accurate delivery of conventional or guided weapons
  • One centerline station for carrying extra fuel or air-to-ground weapons
  • Cockpit upgrades: a touch-sensitive, up-front control display; a larger, liquid crystal multipurpose color display; and a new engine fuel display
Super Hornets in formation
Super Hornets in formation