f16 vs f18
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F-16 Vs. F-18: Top 10 Differences Between The Viper & Super Hornet

War changed dramatically in 1911 when the Italians used the first aircraft for reconnaissance during the Turkish war.

That opened a whole realm of opportunities in war, and in stretching what was thought to be possible, the fighter jet was born.

This drastically changed how wars would be fought in the future, as well as creating a new space in which we could fight.

Thus, the term dog fight was born and the sky became the golden nugget everyone wanted to control.

It has been said those who control the sky, control the land.

Today we will go head to head on two of the most iconic fighter jets known, the F-16 “Fighting Falcon” and the F-18 “Hornet”.

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F-16 Vs. F-18: Top 10 Differences

#1. Speed

the f18 top speed is mach 1.8 or 1190 mph
Image: Wikimedia.org

The F-16 Fighting Falcon (AKA ‘Viper’) can reach impressive top speeds just over Mach 2, which is over 1500 MPH!

The average cruising speed is 577 MPH.

The F-18 Hornet can reach Mach 1.8, going up to 1190 MPH. Its cruising speed varies between 580 KTS at high altitude, to 720 KTS at low altitude.

So in a drag race the F-16 takes the cake every time, giving it a unique speed advantage.

In more realistic flying conditions, such as getting to and from a location, the F-18 would win due to its higher cruising speed.

#2. Manufacturers

The F-16 fighting falcon from General Dynamics is a single engine multirole fighter originally created for the US Air Force.

It was designed to be a day fighter but evolved to be a multi tool of sorts, being used in whatever situation it was needed.

General Dynamics is the world’s third largest military contractor in the world, and they have manufactured some very iconic weapons and aircraft used in warfare today.

They have several bombers including the F-111 Aardvark, as well as the F-22 Raptor.

This company has been around for 69 years as they were founded in February of 1952.

McDonnell Douglas was founded in 1967 but were acquired by their competitor in 1997.

Boeing was founded in 1939 and has become the second largest military contractor in the world, over 45 percent of their revenue coming from defense contracts.

They produce a massive variety of aircraft, including the civilian passenger jets like the 747, 767, and 787.

They decided all civilian and passenger craft would start and end in a 7. They also make many bombers and fighter jets.

The F-18 and the F-15 are made by them, which General Dynamics tried to replace with the F-22 but ultimately failed.

This company also works in aerospace, working with satellites and space craft. Boeing also produces the latest missiles, tanks and unmanned vehicles for the US government as well.

They are currently working on several experimental aircraft, pushing the boundaries of what we know today to greater heights.

#3. Engines

The F-18 uses twin General Electric F-404 engines. Image: Wikimedia.org

The F-16 Falcon is a single engine jet, powered by a Pratt & Whitney F100 or a General Electric F110 turbo fan engine.

With after burning, the powerful engine can create up to 29,000lbs of thrust (130 kilonewtons).

The F-18 is built different, having dual engines.

These engines are either the General Electric F-404 or the Turbo electric engines, built by McDonnell Douglas.

They can each produce up to 17,000lbs of thrust (76 kilonewtons).

Together they can produce up to 34,000lbs of thrust, more than the F-16, but due to weight and aerodynamics, the F-16 is able to reach the higher speeds.

This difference means that if both planes have an engine failure, or get blow an engine in a fight, the F-18 will have a much better chance of making it home where the F-16 will be forced to land immediately.

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#4. Branches

The F-16 is used by the US Air Force (Reserve and active duty), the Navy as well as the National Guard.

They were sued as multi-purpose aircraft, being deployed in any case they could be utilized effectively.

They were used to attack air fields, bunkers, military production facilities and were armed with various payouts to better accomplish the individual mission given at the time.

This aircraft could get in and out rather quickly, and leave behind the destruction on the intended target all while doing so at a comparatively low cost.

It is one of the cheaper fighter jets in the current line up as of 2021. These were widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan for these reasons.

The F-16 is known as the work horse of the Air Force, who it was designed for.

The F-18 is currently utilized by the Navy and the Marine Corps.

They loved how universal the aircraft could be’ being used for recon, bombing runs, air-to-air and air-to-ground firing runs.

This aircraft was also coveted for its lower than average maintenance costs.

The model B has been used primarily for training missions whereas the model D has been utilized more for real world situations.

It has been purposed for tactical air control, forward air control, and reconnaissance missions.

Another large reason this was chosen by the Marines and Navy is due to it being able to take off and land on an aircraft carrier.

The F-16 cannot handle the stressor’s involved in this and thus are made for a more traditional takeoff and landing.

The F-18 is a beloved aircraft of Marine Corps pilots and has been for the past thirty years.

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#5. Combat Roles

Both The F-16 and the F-18 can do varying mission types including air to air, air to ground, recon and surveillance.

They have both been adopted to fulfill any necessary combat situations and are used in various environmental settings.

The F-18 has some advantages in combat that the F-16 cannot match. It has the ability to take off from aircraft carriers, allowing a more tactical insert into the battlespace.

It has a superior cruising speed allowing it to get in and out of a battlespace more rapidly as well.

This aircraft, although can do nearly any mission, has been used primarily for air-to-ground attacks, reconnaissance and as a tool to hold the sky during combat times.

It is used in dog fights as well, but has a shorter ranged reconnaissance and air-to-ground fire runs.

The F-16 has a greater range by far when compared to the F-18, meaning it can stay in the air much longer without the need to refuel while accomplishing a mission.

It also can handle more G forces than the F-18, so it has the advantage in a dog fight. It has the abilities to fly far and quickly, allowing a rapid takeover of the skies.

Through their differences both of these aircraft are used widely as whatever is needed in the moment, they are capable of handling multiple mission types and different loads of ordinance making them some of the most popular aircraft in the battle space toady.

#6. Maneuverability

f16 dispensing flares
Image: Wikimedia.org

The F-16 Hornet can handle impressive 9G maneuvers in the air giving it the ability to quickly change course and leave other aircraft to struggle to keep up.

The F-18 Hornet is capable of handling 7.5G’s which still allows for rapid maneuvers, just not quite as hard as those of a F-16.

Both jets can handle complex maneuvers though, both evasive and offensive, but the F-16 can go just a little more.

The design of the F-18 makes it a formidable opponent though in a dog fight due to its thrust to weight ratio as well as its dual engines.

This allows it to nearly perform the same maneuvers as the F-16 Falcon.

In a dog fight the F-16 would most likely wind up on top, but it wouldn’t be an easy fight in the least.

#7. Design

The F-16 Falcon Is a bit more compact when compared to the F-18 Hornet.

The F-16 has a length of 49 feet and 5 inches. Its wing span is 32 feet and 8 inches.

This aircraft has a takeoff weight of 37,500 lbs. The F-18 comes in slightly larger at 56 feet long with a wingspan of 40 feet and 4 inches.

It has a takeoff weight of over 40,000 lbs. The only thing about the F-16 that is larger than the F-18 is the height, it comes in just a few inches taller.

The reasoning behind the dimensions of these aircraft are for what its intended purpose was.

The F-16 is raw speed and power, able to be a smaller target and perform greater maneuvers.

The F-18 is more of a universal aircraft designed with two engines, making the weight and size of the craft larger than the single engine comparison.

This can allow it to carry more firepower into a mission than the F-16, which in some cases would prove more valuable than the speed and size of the F-26.

#8. Cost

The F-16 costs roughly 30 million dollars per unit. The F-18 costs more than double at 66.9 million dollars.

You have to also think about the cost to keep these in the air when considering the price of these jets and the cost per hour to run an F-18 is $10,507.

This is most likely due to its dual engines eating fuel more rapidly than single engine aircraft.

The F-16 comes in a little cheaper at $8,000 per hour, proving this point further.

Considering overall cost, the F-18 is more to purchase and more to run.

This gets off set slightly due to the F-18’s renowned lower maintenance costs and easier access to vital internal components.

This means it is easier and quicker to make repairs and maintain vital components when compared to the F-16.

Less down time on a piece of equipment in combat is easily worth paying more for in most cases.

#9. Dogfight Capabilities

The F-16 has a range of 2,622 miles which is more than four times that of the F-18, having only a range of 600 miles.

This means that the F-16 can travel much further from a base to accomplish a mission, or stay in the fight longer than the F-18 which has more of a need to get in and out of the fight relatively quickly.

The service celling is also greater on the F-16, at 55,000 feet when compared to the 36,089 feet of the F-18.

Also the F-16 and reach G forces up to 9.0 and the F-18 can only reach up to 7.5.

This gives the F-16 the advantage in flight time, altitude and maneuverability.

Due to the F-18 having two engines if one is blown, it can limp its way back home where if the F-16 loses its only engine, the pilot will need to abandon the aircraft generally.

A downside of the F-16 is it cannot handle the forces of landing and take-off from an aircraft carrier.

This is something the F-18 has an advantage over. It may not fly as far, but it is more versatile.

The F-18 also carries a larger and more versatile array of weapons when compared to the F-16.

Overall, in a strict air-to-air dog fight the F-16 would generally win.

However, when you need something that can do it all, carry more ordinance and be more flexible on what it’s doing and where it is taking off from, the F-18 is going to be the aircraft of choice for most missions.

#10. Countries

An F-16 used by the Belgian air force. Image: Wikimedia.org

Both fighter jets are battle proven and have been in use for many years due to their tremendous capabilities.

They are both great aircraft for reconnaissance, dog fights, fire runs and just as a presence to maintain the control over the sky or a battle area.

The F-16 is widely known as a versatile, powerful and most importantly an affordable fighter jet and thus is used by many other countries around the world.

Users of this jet include: Bahrain, Belgium, Denmark, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, South Korea, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, USA and Venezuela.

The F-18 is more expensive, slightly newer and less widely used.

This is largely due to it having more cost associated with the craft, but it is currently used by; Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain, Switzerland and the US.

References / Resources

First Aircraft Used In War

F-16 Fighting Falcon | Lockheed Martin

F-16 Fighting Falcon Air Force Fact Sheet

F/A-18 Super Hornet | Boeing Official Site

F-18 Performance / Specifications | NASA

See Also

12 Military Drones Employed By The US Military

Rob V.
F-18 vs F-16

F-18 vs F-16

4.6 out of 5 (74 Ratings)

Learn more about the differences between the F-16 Fighting Falcon (aka Viper), and the F/A-18 Super Hornet. These include differences in speeds, design, maneuverability, countries that use it, and more.
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