The first sting, 41 years ago

U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archive 428-GX-K-118818. Photographed by PH2 James C. Brown

Here we see a parked YF-17A/F-18 Prototype aircraft aboard Naval Air Station, Miramar, San Diego, California. October 28, 1977

Offical caption: “McDonnell Douglas Corporation, with Northrop as principal subcontractor, is building the F-18 Hornet for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. When the F-18 joins the fleet, it will replace both the F-4 Phantom II for fighter escort and the A-7 Corsair II in light attack missions.”

428-GX-K-118815

Since being adopted, some 1,480 ‎F/A-18A/B/C/Ds were built for the U.S., Switzerland, Finland, Canada, Australia, Kuwait, Malaysia, and Spain with production ending in August 2000. The line has been replaced by the larger and more sophisticated E/F series.

The U.S. Navy is in the process of retiring these early model Hornets, having completed their last carrier deployment in March. Reportedly, Allied operators are looking to do the same in coming years, with even the youngest F-18s pushing age 20, and many (Marines, talking to you) almost twice that.

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