Biggest Differences Between F-16 & F-18 Fighter Jets

Like the F-16, the F/A-18 is a multi-role fighter that can do a lot. The F/A-18B model is primarily used for training pilots to operate the jet, but the F/A-18A, C, and D, are combat-focused jets that can take on air-to-ground attack roles, provide close air support, suppress enemy air defense, and strike naval and maritime targets.

They’re also used for air superiority missions, as fighter escorts, and to serve as fleet air defense protect the Carrier Strike Group. Other missions that the F/A-18 can accomplish include airborne forward air controller and reconnaissance missions. It’s also the aircraft that the Navy uses for aerial refueling via buddy stores, allowing other Navy aircraft to take off with heavier loads (i.e., carry more weapons) and then top-up tanks once airborne to extend mission range.

Of course, we can’t forget the EA-18G Growler, which is basically an F/A-18F Super Hornet reconfigured to deliver massive electronic interference to enemy radar screens. This aircraft ensures that the adversaries cannot see other U.S. aircraft coming into attack, helping them avoid detection and giving their pilots a greater chance in accomplishing their missions.

The F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet aircraft were more suitable for the Navy’s need, like their twin-engine configuration and smaller intakes (which meant less chance of sucking up an inattentive deck crew), that’s why the Navy didn’t choose the F-16 (or its carrier-based variant). Despite the efforts to create a unified fighter jet with the F-35, the needs of the various services (Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps) mean that it’s highly difficult to create a single plane that can meet everyone’s requirements — that’s why the Lightning II variants have little in common.

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