Difference Between F-15 and FA-18

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: September 05, 2023


Difference Between F-15 and FA-18

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F-15 and F-18 are aircraft designed by McDonnell Douglas; the former was designed in 1969, whereas the latter’s design is the modified version of the Y-17. F-18’s designs were finalized in the late 1970s, and it was announced on 1 March 1977 that the aircraft’s official name would be Hornet. Both aircraft can climb more than 50, 000 feet per minute and maybe one or two-seaters.

Though some people prefer the Hornets, aviation geeks consider F-15 Eagles ‘cooler’. After all, F-15 fighter aircraft are the first ones that can fly straight up immediately after take-off leaving people slack-jawed and in awe. Despite criticisms pouring in about how they are too large to be successful in dogfights, the F-15s have proved their superiority time and time again.  

F-15 Vs. F-18

F-15 Eagles are superior fighter aircraft; no other fighter aircraft has proven to be superior to them. F-18s, though a worthy adversary, are more like a jack-of-all-trades and serve multiple roles, as they are highly maneuverable and lightweight.

Difference Between F-15 And F-18 In Tabular Form

Parameters of ComparisonF-15F-18
RoleF-15s are air superiority fighters. They aid in seizing enemy airspace by displaying tactical dominance.F-18s are carrier-based multirole fighters. They are used to perform fighter escorts (escorting bombers to and from their targets), anti-aircraft warfare, air interdiction (preventive bombing tactics), reconnaissance, and so on.
Used primarily inThough manufactured in the US, it is used predominantly in other countries, too. Japan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia use these aircraft.It is predominantly used in Australia and the United States.
LengthF-15s are 63 feet and 9 inches long.These aircraft are 60 feet and 1 12 inches long.
WingspanIt has a wingspan of 42 feet and 10 inches.It has a wingspan of 44 feet and 8 12 inches.
Combat radiusF-15 aircraft can travel 1222 miles and return to base without refueling.The combat radius of F-18 aircraft is a comparatively underwhelming 449 miles.
Dog Fight ResultF-15s Eagles would be unstoppable in high altitude, head-to-head dogfights against the F-18 Hornets. It is worth noting that F-15s are yet to lose in aerial combat.F-18 Hornets may win at lower altitudes. The win or loss depends on the pilot’s skill.
ArmamentF-15 Eagles carry 20 mm  M61 Vulcan 6-barrelled Gatling cannon and drop tanks for offensive and defensive attacks.Though both aircraft carry bombs and missiles, F-18 Hornets carry 20 mm Vulcan Gatling guns.

What Is F-15?

F-15 Eagles are twin-engine, tactical fighter aircraft; their performance after introduction was so fabulous that several other variants were produced, throughout the years. F-15s are (primarily) superior air combatants that have excellent ground-attack capabilities. However, the secondary capability has not been utilized much. The current F-15 Eagle is the F-15C.

The F-15s have a look-down/shoot-down radar. That is, their radar system is capable of detecting, tracking, and guiding a missile to an aircraft silhouetted on the ground. Moreover, the radar is capable of distinguishing the target from the clutter (unwanted echoes in electronic systems due to animal movement or atmospheric turbulences.

F-15s are capable of making tight turns without losing speed (kind of like the narrow turns car racers make in the Fast and Furious franchise). The empennage (an aircraft’s tail) has composite material (a material created by the fusion of two constituent materials with dissimilar properties) honeycomb structure (used to minimize the amount of material used) vertical stabilizers (the tail fin and the moveable rudders attached to it). The vertical stabilizers have skin made of boron, which accounts for the incredible thinness of the F-15’s tail.

A skilled Israeli pilot proved (in a training exercise) that F-15s are capable of controlled flight with just one wing when he landed the aircraft safely after a mid-air collision that destroyed the other wing. Moreover, Israel Air Force was the first one to kill using F-15 aircraft. F-15s have an automated weapons system and can be equipped with AIM-7F/M Sparrow missiles, AIM-9L/M Sidewinder, and M61 Vulcan Gatling guns. Alternatively, AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles may be equipped.

F-15 fighter aircraft have a Mach speed of 2.5, which is 1600 – 1800 miles per hour. Therefore, it is the fastest fighter jet (it’s faster than F-14, F-16, F-18, etc.) the US has produced. Even though half a century has passed since its debut F-15s are still in service. Apparently, F-15s can shoot down satellites in orbit. An anti-satellite missile was designed for an airborne F-15 to fire; the mission was successfully carried out.

F-15 engines have afterburner nozzles that provide the necessary extra thrust when required. The high engine power results in quick wear and tear; however, the engines are replaceable within an hour. Moreover, F-15s have air brakes that increase drag to slow them down. Lockheed Martin F-22s almost replaced F-15s in 2010, but the latter is still in use in the 2020s.

Accidents Encountered By F-15s

Apart from the accident during an Israeli training exercise mentioned below, there are a few notable accidents that resulted in the loss of F-15s. They are as follows:

  • Two F-15Cs collided when flying over the Scottish Highlands during a training exercise in 2001. Unfortunately, both pilots died in the accident.
  • In 2007 near Missouri, an F-15 aircraft experienced structural failure in flight and crashed during combat training. The pilot survived, as he ejected before the crash but suffered severe injuries.
  • Two F-15C Eagles collided mid-air over the Gulf of Mexico due to the pilots’ error (they did not clear their flight paths). One of the pilots survived, whereas the other one died.
  • In 2011, an F-15C crashed at the Nellis Air Force Base. Fortunately, the pilot suffered no injuries; however, the crash was attributed to a problem with the plane’s radome and the pilot’s actions.
  • The most recent accident was during a training exercise near the Yorkshire Coast. The F-15 crashed into the North Sea, and the pilot died. The crash happened due to a pilot error stemming from reduced visibility conditions.

Controversies About F-15s

F-15s mistakenly took down UH-60 Black Hawks in 1994 in a friendly-fire incident. Two US pilots misidentified the Black Hawks as Iraqi helicopters and destroyed them. 26 military personnel (from the US, UK, France, and Turkey) and civilians were killed in the incident. Several controversies regarding the incident forced the US to conduct a deep investigation.

The accident that took place in 2007 near Missouri caused all F-15s to be grounded for inspection and repairs. This action garnered a lot of media attention, as some states were forced to depend on the neighboring states’ aircraft to protect them. The nation’s air defense was strained for some time. However, in 2008, the F-15s were cleared for flight.

Variants Of F-15s

  1. F-15A – A single-seat fighter version meant for all weather. 384 aircraft were built from 1972 – 1979.
  2. F-15B – Twin seat version built in 1972 – 1979. This model was initially known as TF-15A.
  3. F-15C – the F-15 Eagles; are improved single-seat all-weather fighter aircraft. 483 F-15Cs were built from 1979 – 1985 and are still in use.
  4. F-15D – they were designed to complement F-15C fighter aircraft.

Aircraft On Display

Several old/retired models of F-15s are displayed in Museums though F-15s are still in use. The following museums display F-15Cs:

  • Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum, Pueblo, Colorado.
  • Museum of Aviation, Robins AFB, Warner Robins, Georgia.
  • Chico Air Museum, Chico, California.

F-15s have made popular appearances in films, fiction, and non-fiction books. They were the film Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag’s subject matter. A detailed analysis of their capabilities was written in the book Fighter Wing: A Guided Tour on Air Force Combat Wing. Several fictional aircraft similar to F-15s have starred in cartoons, animated television shows, and animated films.

What Is F-18?

F-18 Hornets were born as a result of F-15 Eagles facing criticisms stating they are too large and expensive. They are the first aircraft designed to be fighter and attack aircraft (that is, play both roles) and, as such, have greater precision than bombers and can wade through strong low-level air defenses. The Hornets require minimum maintenance, and their meantime between failures (elapsed time between electronic system failures) is three times greater than any other strike aircraft the Navy possesses.

A Hornet even flew 201 km back to base even after both of its engines took a hit (wow, must have been a terrifying experience but kudos to the pilot for keeping it together). The US Navy’s Blue Angels switched from A-4 Skyhawk to F/A-18 Hornet in 1986. The US and the Australian versions of F-18s differ slightly. The former uses a carrier landing system, whereas the latter uses an instrumental landing system and has an improved voice and video recorder.

Canada was the first one to import Hornets; the Hornets replaced the Canadair CF-104 Starfighters and the Canadair CF-116 Freedom Fighters. Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain, and Switzerland all use Hornets. Austria, Hungary, Chile, Philippines, Czech Republic, Poland, Turkey, and Singapore decided not to buy the Hornets after evaluation. Thailand might have bought them but the Asian Financial Crisis prevented them from doing so. Greece chose F-16 and Mirage 2000 over the F-18 Hornets.

F-18s have canted vertical stabilizers that make them controllable in high angles of attack. The Hornets use multifunction displays that allows the pilot to switch between fighter and attack modes. F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornets are new and larger types of aircraft and not upgraded versions of the Hornet. They were named Super Hornets because they made use of the Hornets’ design concepts. The Hornets and Super Hornets have complementary roles in the US Navy.

Hornets have a Mach speed of 1.7, which is lesser than an Eagle’s but still impressive. F/A-18A, F/A-18B, F/A-18C, and F/A-18D are the variants of F/A-18 or F-18 aircrafts. F/A-18A and F/A-18C are single-seat aircraft, while the others are twin-seat aircraft. Various models of F-18 aircraft are displayed in several museums:

  • Palm Springs Air Museum, Palm Springs, California.
  • Texas Air Museum, Texas.
  • Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum, California.
  • Pima Air and Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona.
  • Fort Worth Aviation Museum, Texas.
  • Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

Notable Accidents

  • On December 8, 2008, a Hornet crashed in San Francisco and killed four people. The pilot was safe as he ejected before crashing.
  • Another Hornet crashed into the apartment buildings in Virginia Beach in 2012. Five people and the two pilots (though they ejected) were injured, but everyone survived.
  • Captain Jeff Cuss crashed his jet in 2016 due to bad weather and fatigue during a training exercise (maybe Dean Winchester was right about planes being metal deathtraps!).

Main Difference Between F-15 And F-18 (In Points)

  • F-15’s first flight was on July 27, 1972, whereas F-18’s first flight was on November 18, 1978.
  • F-18s first entered combat in the United States' bombing of Libya in 1986. On the other hand, F-15s first have been around since the Vietnamese War.
  • F-15s have a service ceiling of 65,000 feet, whereas F-18s have only 50,000 feet. Service ceiling is the height above sea level at which an aircraft can only climb as fast as 100 feet per minute.
  • F-18s are slightly heavier than F-15 aircraft. The former weighs 21,320 kg when loaded, while the latter weighs 20,200 kg after loading.
  • F-15 aircraft are for air supremacy missions and therefore lack versatility, whereas F-18s are highly versatile.
  • F-15 strikers have a higher number of victories under their belt (hundreds) than the F-18s.
  • The cost of producing an F-18 Hornet is $66.9 million (probably because of their versatility), whereas the unit cost is only $28 – 30 million in the case of F-15s.


F-15 and F-18 aircraft have powerful weapons equipment capacity, high-end electronic systems and are incredibly easy to maneuver. Therefore, people will not be disappointed whether they gush over the Eagles or the Hornets. Sure, Tom Cruise’s film Top Gun: Maverick sparked a debate among aviation geeks about whether F-15E Strike Eagles or F-18 Super Hornets are superior. But it’s worth more to get into a friendly debate about whether F-15 Eagles or F-18 Hornets are better.


  •  https://ig.space/commslink/f-15-the-go-big-or-go-home-us-fighter-jet-thats-never-lost/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonnell_Douglas_F-15_Eagle
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonnell_Douglas_F/A-18_Hornet
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_F-15_losses
  • https://science.howstuffworks.com/f-15.htm
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1994_Black_Hawk_shootdown_incident


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"Difference Between F-15 and FA-18." Diffzy.com, 2024. Fri. 19 Jul. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-f-15-and-fa-18>.

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