The answer to this question seems intuitively obvious: One is a single seat strike fighter while the other has two crew stations. But is that all?

When it was under development I judged that the E variant was an upgrade designed to replace legacy F/A-18s in Navy and Marine Strike Fighter squadrons (the Corps ended up never buying the jet and held out for a newer design) while the F variant was intended to be a multi-role replacement for both the duties held by the F-14 and the A-6 aircraft, while providing a optional arrangement with dual flight controls for training.

But from the NATOPS manual as well as other literature on the Super Hornet, it appears that the aircraft are one in the same, save only for the second crew station. Does anybody know specifically why the USA purchased x number of E models to equip specific strike fighter squadrons (eg VFA-14) and y number of F models for others (eg VFA-2)?

  • $\begingroup$ @Steve These differences are between the hornet (C/D) and the super-hornet (E/F), not between the E and the F. The F actually has lower internal fuel capacity than the E as a result of the extra seat. $\endgroup$
    – DeepSpace
    Jan 15, 2017 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ Capability-wise, an F-18C pilot mentioned there was essentially no difference, though he felt -F pilots would beg to differ. He did a Q and A session on Reddit.com/r/Hoggit yesterday(?). You can ask him. As for rationale, my memory is fuzzy. $\endgroup$ Jan 17, 2017 at 20:55

2 Answers 2


I discovered the reasons for this:

First, for Fleet F-18Fs, certain missions, such as flying as a Forward Air Controller require an additional flight officer to handle the workloads associated with the job and have a tactical control station specific to this work.

Second a number of F models are fitted with dual identical workstations and dual flight controls for flight training new strike fighter pilots who will be moving on to a fleet Rhino squadron after their training in this jet is complete. I believe completion of advanced strike fighter training in the -F model Rhino qualifies you to fly both the -E and -F variants.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ [citation needed] $\endgroup$
    – T.J.L.
    Oct 11, 2019 at 17:44

The only major difference between the E and the F is the extra seat and its consequences (lower internal fuel capacity, lower landing weight etc).

Fuel Capacity internal: (F-18E) 14,400 lb (6,530 kg) (F-18F) 13,550 lb (6,145 kg)

http://www.aerospaceweb.org/aircraft/fighter/f18ef/ (data and own sources on the bottom of the page)

It also has a lower "Carrier Bringback Payload".

Carrier Bringback Payload F/A-18E: 9,900 lb (4,491 kg) F/A-18F: 9,000 lb (4,082 kg)


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    $\begingroup$ Well, obviously there must be some point in having the second seat when it is paid for in fuel capacity and payload and it is still installed (outside of training, but F is not (just) for training). The difference is that some systems are too complex for single pilot to operate, so they can only be used from the 2-seat version. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jan 17, 2017 at 18:58

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