An aircraft designed for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, the F-18 Hornet is a carrier-capable multirole fighter, sometimes designated F/A-18 to emphasize the multirole aspect of the aircraft: fighter and attack. There are two version levels of the basic aircraft: F-18A and F-18B, and F-18C and F-18D. A and C versions are single seat, while B and D versions are two seat (e.g., for training).
In the "high-low" fighter mix doctrine, the F-18s were the Navy's low end fighter-bomber, while the F-14 Tomcat was the high-end air superiority fighter. While the F-14 was eventually given attack capability, it was eventually retired. The F-18 Super Hornet is the high-end successor in the near term. The F-18A/B/C/D will be replaced by the F-35C Lightning II version for Navy squadrons, and the F-35B Lightning II version in Marine use.
A and B models were used in 1986 in combat against Libya. The improvements in the C/D models, which started coming to the fleet in 1987, had its principal improvements in avionics.
Following a successful run of more than 400 A and B models, the US Navy began taking fleet deliveries of improved F/A-18C (single seat) and F/A-18D (dual seat) models in September 1987. They had improved human interfaces, including a heads-up display and night vision goggles. Navigation improved for both figher and attack missions, with a forward-looking infrared viewing system intended for night navigation and a moving map display.
Perhaps most significant for the fighter role, the C/D carries the AIM-120 AMRAAM (AMRAAM)
At least eight other countries operate Hornets, some, like Canada, with no requirement for carrier capability but finding the overall package attractive.