Dimension : 17.06m(L) x 11.43m(W)
Powerplant : 2 x General Electric F404-GE-402 afterburning, low-bypass turbofans (8,029kg thrust per engine)
Speed : Mach 1.8 / 1,900km/h
Combat radius : 460 miles (air-to-air); 660 miles (air-to-ground)
Ferry range : 2,300 miles
Armament : 1 x 20mm M61A1 rotary cannon (570 rounds), up to 7,711kg of weapons
The F/A-18 Hornet was conceived in the 1970s as a result the US Navy’s VFAX program to replace the existing F-4 Phantom, A-4 Skyhawk and A-7 Corsair of the US Navy and Marine Corps. The aircraft can perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, roles of which can be switched literally at the push of a button.
The initial A and B models entered operational service in 1983. In 1987, a block upgrade resulted in the ‘C’ and ‘D’ model. Whilst the B model is designed as operational/conversion trainer, the ‘D’ model is configured to be an all-weather combat aircraft. The upgrading includes better version of the AN/APG-65 multi-mode radar (upgraded to AN/APG-73 in 1992), ability to fire the AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, SJU-17 NACES ejection seat, AN/AAR-50 thermal navigation pod, AN/AAS-38 Nite Hawk FLIR, NVGs and full-colour MFDs.
In 1993, the Malaysian Government announced its decision to purchase new combat aircraft. One of the aircraft types is the D model of the Hornet, of which the government purchased eight. There was an option for a further 12 airframes but the plan was shelved because of the economic crisis in 1997. The aircraft were delivered in two batches; four in May 1997, piloted by TUDM and USMC aircrews and the other four in August 1997, piloted by Boeing pilots. The TUDM Hornets are similar to their USMC counterparts. However aircraft M45-01 to M45-04 are ‘twin stickers’ (dual control) and can be used as operational/conversion trainer. Aircraft M45-05 to M45-08 have fully missionised rear cockpit. The Malaysian Hornets are painted in Gunship Grey, similar to USAF F-15E Eagles. They are assigned to No.18 Squadron ‘Lipan’ (Centipede) based at Butterworth in the State of Penang.
Weapons package in the TUDM purchase includes AIM-9S Sidewinder (slightly downgraded version of the ‘M’ model) IR-guided AAM, AIM-7M Sparrow SARH AAM, AGM-84A Harpoon AShM, AGM-65 Maverick AGM (photos have shown white painted missiles, probably denoting TV /Scene Mag ‘A’ or ‘B’ variant. There is also a photo of a grey missile, probably denoting laser-guided ‘E’ model), GBU-12 Paveway II LGB, Rockeye CBU and CRV-7 unguided rockets.
In March 2003, M45-08 was involved in an accident at Kuching International Airport when it skidded off the runway. The airframe is salvageable although there are damage to the cockpit when the aircrew ejected. M45-08 has returned to service some time last year.