Primary function: Attack and destroy surface targets, day or night, under all weather conditions; conduct multi-sensor imagery reconnaissance; provide supporting arms coordination; and intercept and destroy enemy aircraft under all weather conditions.
Manufacturer: McDonnell Douglas
Propulsion: Two General Electric F404-GE-400 afterburning, low bypass turbofan engines
Thrust: 16,000 pounds per engine
Length: 56 feet (17.06 meters)
Wing span: 37.5 feet (11.43 meters)
Cruise speed: High subsonic to supersonic
Ferry range: Over 2,000 nautical miles (2300 miles)
Fighter mission: 400 nautical miles (460 miles)
Attack mission: 575 nautical miles (661.25 miles)
Armament: Nine external wing stations, comprising two wingtip stations for AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles; two outboard wing stations for an assortment of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, including AIM-7 Sparrows, AIM-9 Sidewinders, AMRAAMs, AGM-84 Harpoons and AGM-65 Maverick missiles; two inboard wing stations for external fuel tanks or air-to-ground stations; two nacelle fuselage stations for Sparrows or AN/AAS-38 Forward Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR) pods; and a center station for fuel tank or air-to-ground weapons such as GBU-10 and -12 laser guided bombs, Mk 80 series general purpose bombs, and CBU-59 cluster bombs. An M61 20mm six-barrel gun is mounted in the nose and has a McDonnell Douglas director gunsight.
Introduction date: October 1989
Unit Replacement Cost: $28,000,000
Mission: Specific F/A-18D tasks include:
- Conduct day and night deep air support, in all weather. Deep air support consists of armed reconnaissance, radar search and attack, interdiction, and strikes against enemy installations, using all types of weapons compatible with assigned aircraft.
- Conduct multi-sensor imagery reconnaissance to include pre-strike and post-strike target damage assessment and visual reconnaissance.
- Conduct day and night supporting arms coordination to include forward air control, tactical air coordination and artillery/naval gunfire spotting.
- Intercept and destroy enemy aircraft in conjunction with ground and airborne fighter direction.
- Conduct battlefield illumination and target illumination.
- Conduct armed escort of friendly aircraft.
- Be able to operate from aircraft carriers, advanced bases, and expeditionary airfields.
- Be able to deploy or conduct extended range operations employing aerial refueling.
Features: Marine F/A-18D aircraft are unique within the Department of the Navy because the Marine Corps employs the F/A-18D as a tactical strike aircraft while the Navy uses it as a trainer. Marine F/A-18Ds may be land-based from prepared airfields, or they can operate from expeditionary airfields (EAF). They may also be sea-based, operating from the decks of Navy aircraft carriers.
Inventory: Currently 72 (6 active squadrons).
Background: The Marine Corps F/A-18Ds have replaced 108 OA-4M, RF-4B, and the A6-E aircraft. The F/A-18D functions not only as a strike fighter, but also as a Forward Air Controller (Airborne)/Tactical Air Controller (Airborne) (FAC(A)/TAC(A)) and tactical reconnaissance aircraft. In addition, the night attack suite allows the F/A-18D to conduct operations below weather at low altitude using night vision goggles and Foward Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR) systems. Using a variety of precision guided weapons, the F/A-18D provides a precision strike capability.
Operation Desert Storm in 1991 was the operational proving ground for the F/A-18D. Twelve F/A-18D aircraft deployed to SWA to participate in combat operations. Used solely in a Tactical Air Coordinator (Airborne)/Forward Air Control (Airborne) or "Fast FAC" role, the F/A-18D proved to be a superior TAC(A)/FAC(A) platform. The F/A-18D's flew into target areas, ahead of strike aircraft, to locate and identify high value targets for USMC, USAF, USN, and Kuwait Air Force TACAIR missions. By providing target location and identification, threat updates, and the overall battlefield situation, the F/A-18D proved very effective in controlling as many as 20 strike fighters in a single 30-minute period.
Date last modified: 12/05/95
Modified on June 17, 1999