6 differences between the Air Force F-16 and the Navy's F-18

The F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F/A-18 Hornet are both “lightweight” fighters. Each was intended to complement a larger, heavier fighter (the F-15 for the F-16, the F-14 for the F/A-18). But they also have some big differences. Let’s look over some of them:

1. The number of engines

The F-16 has one engine – the F/A-18 has two. This is largely due to their differing operational environments. The F-16 operates from land bases, while the F/A-18 operates primarily from carriers.

Of course, this also bears a lot on survivability. If an F-16 loses an engine, the pilot’s gotta grab the loud handle. An F/A-18, on the other hand, can limp back to the carrier.

2. Operating from a carrier

The F-16 is tied to land bases – its landing gear cannot handle the shock of hitting a carrier deck. On the other hand, the F/A-18 can readily shift between a carrier operation and flying from land bases.

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, May 4, 2016, takes off from the base during RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 16-1. Aggressor pilots are trained to act as opposing forces in exercises like RF-A to better prepare U.S. and allied forces for aerial combat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Turner)

3. Initial weapons suite

Did you know the F-16 originally didn’t have any radar-guided missiles? Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that early A/B versions (Blocks 1, 5, 10, and 15) didn’t have the ability to fire the AIM-120 AMRAAM or AIM-7 Sparrow. The Block 15 ADF was the first version to carry a radar guided missile, the AIM-7.

The F/A-18, though, could carry radar-guided missiles from day one. This was because while the F/A-18 was replacing an attack plane, it was also intended to help defend the carrier.

An AIM-120 AMRAAM being loaded onto an F-16CJ. | US Air Force

4. Pure speed

The F-16 has a top speed of Mach 2.0. The F/A-18 can only reach Mach 1.8. Still, these planes are both very fast when they need to be. But in a pure drag race, the F-16 will win – and by a decent margin.

usaf full afterburner

U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Ruano

5. How they refuel

The F/A-18 uses a probe to latch into a drogue. The good news is that it can use just about anyone’s tankers – even USAF tankers, which are modified to carry drogues in addition to their booms.

The F-16s in the United States Air Force inventory, though, have a receptacle for the boom from a KC-135, KC-10, or KC-46 to plug into. Part of this is because the Air Force also has to refuel big bombers and cargo planes that need a lot of fuel quickly – and the boom can do just that.

FA-18 hornet ball 2015 refueling in mid air

Image: Joe Stephens/Youtube Screen grab

6. Movie career

The F-16 has a clear edge in this one. In the movie “Iron Eagle,” the F-16 is arguably the star alongside Louis Gossett, Jr. (Chappy Sinclair) and Jason Gedrick (Doug Masters). The F/A-18 played a role in “Independence Day,” but it wasn’t quite the star the F-16 was in Iron Eagle.

So, what other differences can you think of between these two planes?

TOP ARTICLES
This is the short and tragic history of the flying aircraft carrier

Today the Navy uses seagoing ships to carry its planes to battle and to protect the fleet. Not long ago, those 'carriers' actually flew themselves.

This is the real-life version of Chuck Norris’s dune buggy from 'The Delta Force'

Newer versions allow America’s special operators to slip into a fight and get out fast after taking it to the bad guys.

The US just turned up the heat on Russian warplanes in Syria

The US just threw down the gauntlet on Twitter, declaring their intention to both defend the SDF (recently targeted by Russia), and defeat ISIS.

This is the Air Force secretary's cry for help over a service under strain

The Air Force is struggling under the weight of old technology, not enough airmen, and a lack of funding.

This is how music affected the military careers of these veterans

These vets served in different branches and different conflicts, but one thing unites them — their love of music, and we've got their favorite songs here.

This is why Wil Willis was proud to serve

Army Ranger and Air Force Pararescueman Wil Willis did all sorts of special ops, so it makes sense Kid Rock's epic song would make his epic playlist.

The US Navy's most advanced submarines will soon be using Xbox controllers

The Navy is beginning to use an Xbox 360 controller to operate the periscopes aboard Virginia-class submarines.

This sailor has one of the most impressive resumes you'll ever see — and he's not done yet

Most kids grow up wanting to someday be a Navy SEAL or an astronaut. This sailor may soon fulfill his dream of being both.

US aviator who helped form Israeli Air Force dies at 94

Mitchell Flint was one of the founding members of "Machal," a group of non-Israelis who fought in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

This is how a Marine amphibious vehicle caught fire during training in CA

The accident and fire injured 14 Marines and a sailor during a training exercise at a California base earlier this week.

THE MIGHTY SURVEY GIVE-AWAY

We want to hear your thoughts. Complete our survey for a chance to win 1 of 5 gaming consoles

COMPLETE SURVEY TO WIN