Following the Vietnam War, the U.S. Navy developed a multi-mission aircraft able to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions to replace the F-4 Phantom and A-7 Corsair. The YF-17 was selected as the lightweight craft due to being able to adapt to aircraft carrier operations. Teaming-up, McDonnell Douglas and Northrop developed the strike fighter, with the designation of F/A-18 and was named Hornet. The first aircraft were to the U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy, respectively. The first deployed Hornets were sent to USS Constellation (CV-64) in 1985.
In 1986, the Blue Angels switched to the F/A-18, replacing the A-4 Skyhawk. Hornets are the longest serving aircraft with the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron. In April, the first combat action for the aircraft was Operation El Dorado Canyon, air strikes against Libya. In 1987, an upgraded version of he Hornet, was put into operations. This version had the ability to carry an AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). The night version of the Hornet, F/A-18-D, was placed into service in 1990.
During Operation Desert Storm in January 1991, the Hornet aircraft proved their versatility when successfully engaging two Iraqi MiG-21 and an enemy A-6 Intruder. Other operations with the aircraft have been Operation Southern Watch from 1992 to 2003 and with flights over Bosnia and Kosovo in the mid-1990s. Hornets have also participated in Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. The F/A-18 has been replaced by the Super Hornet with the designations of F/A-18-E/F. The last operational flight by a Hornet as by an F/A-18C in October 2019.
Image: 330-CFD-DN-SD-90-05858: F/A-Hornet, January 1990. An F/A-18 Hornet from Strike Fighter Squadron 137 (VFA-137) files faster than sound, creating a sonic boom and a visual mist during an exercise off the coast of San Diego, California, January 1, 1990. Official U.S. Navy photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.