F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

Product Type:

Multi-Role Tactical Fighter & Attack Aircraft

Using Service (US):


Program Status:

In production

Prime Contractors:

Airframe: The Boeing Company
Engines: General Electric Aviation

The F/A-18 Super Hornet
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About the F/A-18E/F:

The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is a carrier-based multi-role tactical fighter and attack aircraft. The Super Hornet is powered by two General Electric F414-GE-400 afterburning turbofan engines with 22,000 pounds of thrust each.

Two versions of the F/A-18 Super Hornet are being produced, the single-seat E model and the two-seat F model. Customers include the U.S. Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). As of September 2015, the U.S. Navy has a fleet of 540 Super Hornets of which 279 are E-models and 261 F-models. Furthermore, Boeing has delivered 24 F/A-18Fs to the RAAF. The U.S. Navy ended its procurement of the Super Hornet in fiscal year 2013 with the purchase of the 563rd and final aircraft. However, in FY 2016, Congress added funding for an additional 5 aircraft. Another 2 aircraft will be procured in FY 17 to replace OCO losses.

In the U.S., the Super Hornet is operational in 10 Carrier Air Wings (25 squadrons). Beyond the Super Hornet, the Navy operates a fleet of 613 F/A-18A/B/C/D Hornets (as of September 2015).

With its selected external equipment, the Super Hornet can be optimized to accomplish both fighter and attack missions. The F/A-18E/F provides a 40% increase in combat radius, 50% increase in endurance, 25% greater weapons payload, three times more ordnance, and is five times more survivable than the F/A-18 Hornet models. These major performance improvements are mainly due to the superior F414-GE-400 engine, which is more powerful than the F404 used on the F/A-18 Hornet.

As part of carrier air wings, the F/A-18E/F operates from the Navy's fleet of Nimitz Class aircraft carriers. The typical carrier air wing has a squadron of 12 F/A-18E models and a squadron of 12 F/A-18F models.

The Super Hornet is equipped with a Raytheon AN/APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar, which is integrated with the aircraft's AN/ASQ-228 Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) targeting pod from Raytheon; the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS); the Multifunctional Information Distribution System
(MIDS); advanced high capacity computer system; and state-of-the-art cockpit.

Other systems onboard are the Raytheon AN/ALR-67(V)3 digital radar warning receiver (RWR), the BAE Systems/Exelis AN/ALQ-214 Integrated Defensive Countermeasures (IDECM), the BAE Systems AN/ALE-47 countermeasures dispenser, Raytheon AN/ALE-50 towed decoy, and the Rockwell Collins AN/ARC-210 VHF/UHF Airborne Communications System. More recently, in January 2015, the U.S. Navy approved Lockheed Martin's IRST21 passive long-range sensor system for the F/A-18E/F. IRST21 uses infrared search and track technology to detect and track airborne threats. IRST21 is mounted on the nose section of the center fuel tank.

Boeing's F/A-18 assembly line is located in St. Louis, Missouri. As a principal subcontractor, Northrop Grumman produces the aft/center fuselage section and vertical tails and integrates all associated subsystems at its facilities in El Segundo, California.

On September 28, 2010, Boeing was awarded a $5.3 billion U.S. Navy multi-year procurement contract for 124 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers. Boeing will deliver 66 Super Hornets and 58 Growlers to the Navy from FY 2012 through FY 2015. On December 12, 2013, Boeing was awarded an $873 million contract for system upgrades for F/A-18 A/B, C/D, E/F, and EA-18G aircraft for the U.S. Navy and the governments of Australia, Finland, Switzerland, Kuwait, Malaysia, and Canada.

In August 2013, Boeing introduced their concept of a new Super Hornet variant, the Advanced Super Hornet (ASH). The aircraft would be outfitted with conformal fuel tanks increasing the aircraft's mission radius by up to 130 nm for a total radius exceeding 700 nm. The ASH would also feature an enclosed weapons pod and would have a radar cross section that is 50% less than Block II Super Hornets. With enhanced F414 engines providing 15-20% more thrust, the ASH would come with greater speed and acceleration. Other new features include a next generation cockpit and an internal Infrared Search and Track (IRST) system. With the ASH, Boeing hopes to win upcoming fighter competitions abroad where it competes with Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II, the Eurofighter Typhoon, and Saab's JAS 39 Gripen.

By January 30, 2013, the F/A-18 Super Hornet had accumulated over 1.1 million flight hours. The current life limits for the F/A-18E/F are 6,000 flight hours, 2,250 catapults/arrestments and 15,750 total landings. The U.S. Navy's F/A-18 SLAP program seeks to double flight hours to 12,000, increase catapults/arrestments to 3,500 and total landings to 22,500.identify critical structures and components that can achieve the extended service life limit goals. The F/A-18 SLAP program provides structural analyses of the main landing gear, arresting hook and catapult back-up structures, vertical tails, wings and fuselage. A second effort is to assess the subsystem components (hydraulics, wiring, actuators etc.).


The F/A-18E/F has eleven weapons stations (hardpoints) - 2 on wingtips, 6 under-wing, and 3 under-fuselage - and carries a wide range of ordnance. It features an M61-A1/A2 Vulcan 20mm gatling gun and can be equipped with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles (AIM-9X projected), AIM-120 AMRAAM, AGM-88 HARM/AARGM, AGM-154 JSOW, AGM-158 JASSM, GBU-31/38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) as well as several other types of ordnance. According to Boeing, a typical basic loadout for a self-escort strike mission includes the AN/ASQ-228 ATLIR targeting pod, one AIM-120 AMRAAM, two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and an external fuel tank. This leaves the six under-wing weapon stations available to carry a variety of weapons and other stores. For more detail, see specifications below.

Price/Unit Cost:

In FY 2013, the unit cost of an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet was $60.9 million (flyaway cost) or $70.5 million incl. non-recurring and support costs. The cost of the airframe was $34.83 million, the two F414-GE-400 engines cost $8.88 million ($4.44 million each), and the avionics cost $8.71 million.

Congressional Add: In FY 2016, the unit cost of an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is $67.2 million (flyaway cost) or $70.0 million incl. non-recurring and support costs. The cost of the airframe is $46.21 million, the two F414-GE-400 engines cost $10.72 million ($5.36 million each), and the avionics costs $8.71 million.

Total Cost - Life of Program (LoP):

The procurement cost of the F/A-18E/F program is $44.50 billion (estimated by the DoD in FY 2013) + $5.56 billion in research and development (RDT&E) funds, which means the total estimated program cost is $50.06 billion (numbers are aggregated annual funds spent over the life of the program and no price/inflation adjustment was made).


The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighter performs traditional missions of fighter escort and fleet air defense, interdiction, and close air support, while still retaining excellent fighter and self-defense capabilities. The F/A-18E/F was designed to replace the F-14 Tomcat fighter aircraft. Also, the Super Hornet has a secondary mission as carrier-based aerial tanking aircraft - this capability used to be provided by the now retired S-3B Viking.

FY 2016 DoD Program:

An FY 2016 Congressional Addition provides $350 million in procurement funds for the production of 5 Super Hornets. The FY 17 budget also provides procurement funds in the amount of $909.6 million for modifications to the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet + $155.4 million for RDT&E.

FY 2017 DoD Program:

FY 2017 provides procurement funds in the amount of $184.9 million for the production of two aircraft to make up for OCO combat losses.

The FY 17 budget also provides procurement funds in the amount of $1,000.9 million for modifications to the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet + $227.4 million for RDT&E.

For more information, click to see the FY 2017 U.S. Navy F/A-18E/F Procurement Budget.

Sources: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), The Boeing Company,
Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Co., Rockwell Collins, Lockheed Martin,
and General Electric Co.

Specifications Armament DoD Spending FY2017 Budget

Last Update: June 27, 2016.

By Joakim Kasper Oestergaard Balle /// (kasper.oestergaard@forecast1.com)

External Resources:

Boeing's F/A-18 Site: Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet

GE Aviation: F414-GE-400 Turbofan Engine
Raytheon: AN/APG-79 AESA Radar
Raytheon: AN/ASQ-228 ATFLIR targeting pod
Harris/Exelis: AN/ALQ-214 IDECM
Lockheed Martin: IRST21 Sensor System
Rockwell Collins: Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System

YouTube: F/A-18 Super Hornet | YouTube Videos

Fact Sheet: F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
Product Card: F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

Total F/A-18E/F Program Cost:

  $50.06 billion  ($44.50B procurement + $5.56B RDT&E)

F/A-18E/F Procurement Objective:

  PY: 563 aircraft  / Total: 584 aircraft

F/A-18E/F U.S. Defense Budget Charts:

DoD Spending on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in FY 2013, FY 2014, FY 2015, FY 2016 and FY 2017
DoD Purchases of F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft in FY 2013, FY 2014, FY 2015, FY 2016 and FY 2017
F/A-18 Super Hornet readied for launch
The F/A-18E/F is powered by two General Electric F414 turbofan engines
F/A-18 arrested landing on carrier deck
F/A-18E taking off from carrier deck
Defense Budget Data

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DoD Spending, Procurement and RDT&E: FY 2013/14/15 + Budget for FYs 2016 + 2017

DoD Defense Spending, Procurement, Modifications, Spares, and RDT&E for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Defense Program

Download Official U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Budget Data:

Purchases of Aircraft (F/A-18E/F) Modification of Aircraft (F/A-18) RDT&E: F/A-18 Squadrons (NAVY)

Aircraft Specifications: F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

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Primary Function: Multi-role tactical fighter and attack aircraft
Prime Contractor: Airframe: McDonnell Douglas (The Boeing Co.); Engines: General Electric Co.
Power Plant: 2x General Electric F414-GE-400 afterburning turbofan engines
Thrust: 14,000 pounds dry thrust; 22,000 pounds thrust with afterburner (each engine)
Wingspan: 44 ft 9 in (13.68 m)
Length: 60 ft 1 in (18.5 m)
Height: 16 ft (4.87 m)
Weight (Empty): 32,000 lbs (14,520 kg)
Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW): 66,000 lbs (29,930 kg)
Payload: Max. 34,000 lbs (15,420 kg)
Speed: Max: Mach 1.8+/1,034 kts/1,190 mph (1,934 km/h)
Service Ceiling: 50,000+ ft (15,240+ m)
Range: 1,275 nm/1,467 miles (2,346 km) - clean plus two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles
Combat Radius: 390 nm/449 miles (723 km)
Crew: E models: One; F models: Two
Price/Unit Cost: $60.9 million flyaway cost or $70.5 million incl. support costs (in FY 2013)
First Flight: November 29, 1995
Deployed: Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in November 1999

Aircraft Inventory (September 2015):
F/A-18A: 95
F/A-18B: 21
F/A-18C: 368
F/A-18D: 129
F/A-18A/B/C/D Hornet Total: 613

F/A-18E: 279
F/A-18F: 261
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Total: 540

Main Gun: 1x M61A1/A2 Vulcan 20mm gatling gun with 578 rounds;
4x AIM-9 Sidewinder (AIM-9X projected) + 2x AIM-120 AMRAAM; or 6x AIM-120 AMRAAM.
Other Weapons Carried: AGM-65 Maverick; AGM-84 Harpoon, SLAM, SLAM-ER; AGM-88 HARM/AARGM;
AGM-154 JSOW; AGM-158 JASSM; GBU-38 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM);
GBU-31 2,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM); Mk 82/84 General Purpose Bombs;
CBU-87 1,000-pound Combined Effects Munition; CBU-89 GATOR Mine System; CBU-97 1,000-pound Sensor Fuzed Weapon;
GBU-10 2,000-pound Paveway II; GBU-12 500-pound Paveway II; GBU-16 1,000-pound Paveway II;
GBU-24 2,000-pound Paveway III laser-guided bomb; Mk 62/63 Quickstrike Naval Mines.

Raytheon AN/APG-79 AESA radar (older models were equipped with the Raytheon AN/APG-73)
Raytheon AN/ASQ-228 Advanced Targeting Forward-Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) electro-optical targeting pod
BAE Systems/Exelis AN/ALQ-214(V)3 Integrated Defensive Countermeasures (IDECM) system
Raytheon AN/ALR-67(V)3 Radar Warning Receiver
BAE Systems AN/ALE-47 countermeasures dispensing system (CMDS)
Raytheon AN/ALE-50 towed decoy or AN/ALE-55 Fiber Optic Towed Decoy (FOTD)
Lockheed Martin IRST21 Sensor System
Rockwell Collins AN/ARC-210 VHF/UHF Airborne Communications System
Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS).

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