On Oct. 2, 2019, U.S. Navy’s final F/A-18C Hornet officially retired from active duty. The Hornet, tail number 300, was assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA)-106 “Gladiators” at Cecil Field, Florida, for its entire service life. The Navy accepted the aircraft on Oct. 14, 1988; the pilot for its final flight, Lt. Andrew Jalali, was also born that same year, according to a Navy news release.
Now according to latest reports, a U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet squadron flew the Marines’ final deployment on an aircraft carrier. The Marine Corps adopted the F/A-18C in 1987 and flew the jets for a remarkable 34 years.
The F/A-18C strike fighters of the Marine Corps “Death Rattlers” squadron are soon to be replaced by the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.
February 25 marked the final flight for the squadron, according to Marine Corps Times.
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Here’s a video of a U.S. Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet and a F/A-18C from the Death Rattlers refueling on the ground in Kuwait last year:
The F/A-18C Hornet first entered U.S. Navy and Marine Corps service in the mid-1980s, serving continuously since. The fighters have flown in every major conflict of the last four decades, including the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The Navy has since replaced all of its active-duty -C model Hornets with newer F/A-18E/F Super Hornets or F-35C fighters, though the planes continue to serve in Naval Reserve squadrons.
The Marine Corps pushed its Hornet fleet to serve longer, though that wasn’t exactly the intention.
Unlike the Navy, the Marines skipped buying the larger, more advanced F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and decided instead to wait for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The F-35 ran several years behind schedule, forcing the Marines to rely on the older jets longer than they originally hoped. The retirement of the Marine -C squadrons from carrier duty is probably about 3 years late.