The US-designed and built McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet is one of the most important Fourth Generation fighters in the world. Its twin-engine, twin-tails (canted outwards), and leading edge root extensions make it one of the most recognizable fighters in operation.
The latest version is the enlarged Super Hornet. It was controversial in being chosen as the replacement for the much loved F-14 Tomcat, but the truth is that it is a potent and fearsome fighter that boasts one of the most capable radars in service and a weapons loadout that takes full advantage of it. The Super Hornet currently performs the bulk of the Western world's airstrikes on the nefarious terrorist group 'ISIS' in Iraq and Syria.
Developed initially by Northrop as the P-530 Cobra in response to the US Air Force's Light Weight Fighter competition (winner: the General Dynamics F-16), the Hornet had a troubled start in life. Designated the YF-17 for the LWF fly-off in 1974, it failed to impress the Air Force.
However, contractor McDonnell Douglas stepped in confident that it could be improved sufficiently to make it a contender for the US Navy's new fighter competition. McAir, as was often the case, were right. Re-designed and re-designated the F/A-18 (fighter/attack), it won the competition and entered service with the US Navy as a carrier-borne, multi-role fighter, marking the beginning of the Hornet's journey from Air Force 'reject' to 'king' of the US Navy's Fleet Defenders
Steve Davies is a freelance aviation journalist and photographer living in Cambridge, England. He is the author of F-15E Units in Combat 1991-2005 (Osprey), F-15C Units in Combat (Osprey), F-15C/E Units in OIF (Osprey), F-15E Strike Eagle: All Weather Attack Aircraft (Airlife), and F-15 Eagle & Strike Eagle: Combat Legends (Airlife). He is also a regular contributor to the aviation press including International Air Power Review, Combat Aircraft, Air Forces Monthly, Aircraft Illustrated and Air Pictorial.