NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. — The U.S. Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet, a revolutionary strike fighter aircraft, marks its 45th anniversary this November. Known as the “Legacy,” this aircraft set a new benchmark in aerial combat and paved the way for future fighter advancements.

The F/A-18 Hornet, developed by McDonnell Douglas and Northrop Grumman, emerged as a versatile multirole fighter, combining both air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities. Its introduction revolutionized the Navy’s fighter air wing, which previously relied on multiple aircraft for different missions. The Hornet’s adaptability, demonstrated during Operation Desert Storm, showcased its ability to engage in both aerial combat and ground attacks within the same mission.

A U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18C Hornet aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 312 flies loaded with six AIM-120D advanced medium-range air-to-air missile and two AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles over the Pacific Ocean Oct. 27, 2022. VMFA-312 conducts exercises as a part of Marine Aircraft Group 12’s unit deployment program to reinforce the group’s readiness and capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Marine Corps courtesy photo by Capt. Ryan Fronczek).

Cmdr. Tim Tuschinski, Integrated Product Team Lead for Radar/Fighter Electronic Warfare in the F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office (PMA-265), highlighted the Hornet’s efficiency in transitioning between combat roles. “It allowed pilots to move quickly and efficiently between the air-to-air combat mission and the air-to-ground mission; it’s the flip of a switch,” Tuschinski said.

The Hornet’s success in combat operations like Operation Desert Storm underlined its lethality and adaptability. Its design focused on pilot interface, featuring a hands-on throttle and stick and a digital cockpit, making it a cutting-edge fighter of its time.

Reflecting on his experiences, Tuschinski, who flew the Legacy Hornet for 15 years and participated in missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom, remarked on the aircraft’s impact. “The most rewarding missions were the ones when we were able to locate and neutralize high-value assets to keep our guys on the ground safe,” he shared.

While the Legacy Hornet has been phased out of the Navy, being retired in the spring of 2023, it remains operational with the U.S. Marine Corps and several allied militaries. Tuschinski affirmed the ongoing commitment to maintaining the platform’s performance: “We’re poised to continue sustaining this platform, keeping it lethal and survivable until its sundown.”

The F/A-18 family, including the Super Hornet and Growler, continues to evolve, with the Super Hornet now taking the lead in the carrier fighter air wing. These aircraft have accumulated over 11 million flight hours and, through initiatives like Service Life Modification, are expected to remain a core component of naval air power into the 2040s.

Capt. Michael Burks, PMA-265 Program Manager, praised the program office’s half-century of dedication: “Our team continues to move fast and take risks to support, sustain, and advance the fleet.” He emphasized the importance of continual improvement to meet the evolving needs of warfighters and international partners.

The F/A-18 Hornet’s legacy, from its first flight 45 years ago to its ongoing influence in modern aviation, exemplifies the U.S. Navy’s commitment to innovation and excellence in aerial warfare. As the program celebrates this milestone, the enduring impact of the Hornet and its successors on naval aviation continues to resonate.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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