The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet was a result of the United States Navys (USN) Naval Fighter Attack Experimental program to procure a multirole aircraft to replace the F-4 Phantom II, A-4 Skyhawk and A-7 Corsair II, and to complement the F-14 Tomcat. Secretary of the Navy W. Graham Claytor, Jr. gave the name “Hornet” on March 1, 1977.
The F/A-18 is a twin-engine, multi-mission fighter/attack aircraft that can operate from either aircraft carriers or land bases. It was designed to attack both ground and aerial targets. Developed in the 1970s for service with the Navy and the US Marine Corps, it is also used by the air forces of several other nations. The Hornet fills a vast spectrum of roles, including fleet air defense, interdiction, air superiority, suppression of enemy air defenses, close and deep air support, reconnaissance, forward air control, fighter escort, and day and night strike missions. In addition, it is the aerial demonstration aircraft of the USNs Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels.
Formed in 1946, the Blue Angels are the worlds first officially sanctioned military aerial demonstration team. The group has been using the Hornet since they completed their 40th anniversary year and unveiled the sleek aircraft on November 8, 1986. The power and aerodynamics of the Hornet allows them to perform a slow high angle of attack “tail sitting” maneuver, and to fly a loop with landing gear down in formation, neither of which has been duplicated by the Thunderbirds of the Air Force. The Blue Angels perform more than 70 shows at 34 locations throughout the United States each year, where they still employ many of the same practices and techniques in their aerial displays as in 1946. Since their inception, they have flown for more than 427 million spectators worldwide.