Strike Attack A sting in­deed

Aviation Classics - - CONTENTS -

Funny old thing, but here I am stuck on this page again, its 04.00 (What’s the O stand for? O my God it’s early!) and I have too much to say as usual for the space al­lowed. I have learned an amaz­ing amount about this air­craft, not least of which is how easy it is to over­look its slim grey shape among the fighters of to­day. I have also learned that that is a grave mis­take. This is an air­craft that gets about its busi­ness with a min­i­mum of fuss, that much I have learned, but what a busi­ness it is. There is very lit­tle in the way of mod­ern mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions that the F/A-18 Hor­net can­not achieve. Fighter, strike, in­ter­dic­tion, mar­itime pa­trol, re­con­nais­sance, the Hor­net does them all, and does them all ex­tremely well for na­tions as di­verse as Fin­land and Malaysia. There were a great many de­trac­tors to the F/A-18 pro­gramme, the crit­i­cisms that have been lev­elled in­clude the idea that a sin­gle air­craft can­not ful­fil all the tasks re­quired of a mod­ern mil­i­tary and that this par­tic­u­lar air­craft has never had the range re­quired of a car­rier based strike air­craft. In­ter­est­ing that. Since it en­tered ser­vice with the US Marine Corps in 1983, the Hor­net has been car­ry­ing out all the mis­sions it was de­signed for in con­flicts many miles from its car­ri­ers. On two oc­ca­sions F/A-18S were con­duct­ing very dif­fer­ent op­er­a­tions in sep­a­rate re­gions si­mul­ta­ne­ously. Not bad for a limited ca­pa­bil­ity short range air­craft as some would la­bel it. The fact of the mat­ter is that Northrop and Mcdon­nell Dou­glas pro­duced one of the world’s great com­bat air­craft in the Hor­net. Flex­i­ble, adapt­able and supremely re­li­able, as well as be­ing re­mark­ably cheap to op­er­ate, many of the first Hor­nets built are still fly­ing to­day, with up­grades en­sur­ing their con­tin­ued op­er­a­tion well into the next decade. There is one other thing about the Hor­net. It is un­be­liev­ably tough, as some of the sto­ries and images in th­ese pages will at­test. The ba­sic shape of the air­craft was so right from the start it has changed very lit­tle, even in the greatly scaled up F/A-18E, F and G Su­per Hor­nets, which, since they are prop­erly a wholly new air­craft, do not fea­ture in this is­sue of Avi­a­tion Clas­sics, but will in the fu­ture. The orig­i­nal Hor­net thun­ders on, its tremen­dous suc­cess, de­spite its de­trac­tors, is per­haps its great­est sting. As usual on th­ese jour­neys of dis­cov­ery, there are a great many peo­ple to thank for their il­lu­mi­na­tion and as­sis­tance along the way. The me­dia depart­ment of the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment’s Depart­ment of De­fence have one of the most com­pre­hen­sive and beau­ti­fully main­tained web­sites and an amaz­ing im­age li­brary for the Royal Aus­tralian Air Force. Many thanks to them for so many of the su­perb images that fill th­ese pages, and for their speedy and kind replies to all my en­quiries. I would also like to wel­come Spencer Trick­ett, the artist be­hind Sky­toons. If you have been to an air­show in re­cent years, chances are you have seen Spencer at his stand which is full of his art­work, car­toons and avi­a­tion col­lecta­bles. If you want to know more about what he does, have a look at www.sky­toons.co.uk. Spencer is go­ing to be pro­duc­ing a car­toon for this page, and oth­ers, in Avi­a­tion Clas­sics as a regular spot from now on, so wel­come aboard and nice Hor­net buddy!

All the best, Tim

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