The US Navy is preparing to say farewell to the last of its Boeing (formerly McDonnell Douglas) F/A-18C “Legacy” Hornet multi-role fighter aircraft which are set to be retired on 1 February 2019, at their home base at NAS Oceana, Virginia.
The retirement comes as Strike Fighter Squadron 34 (VFA-34), nicknamed the “Blue Blasters,” returns home from combat deployment aboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), as part of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier’s second Carrier Air Wing. VFA-34 is the last operational front-line US Navy squadron to operate the “Legacy” Hornet.
The deployment, which lasted from 5 January to 11 April 2018, saw the squadron deploy to the Western Pacific, where it took part in a historic port call in Vietnam – being the first port stop by a US Navy aircraft carrier at the country since the end of the Vietnam War.
The retirement will allow the “Blue Blasters” to transition to the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet – with VFA-34 being the only front-line naval squadron to still operate the “Legacy” Hornet type.
The United States will not part ways with the “Legacy” Hornets completely though, as they will remain in operational service with the US Marine Corps (USMC) until they’re replaced by the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II multi-role stealth fighters, which has Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) capabilities.
The US Navy will also retain maintain F/A-18A+ “Legacy” Hornets to perform fleet adversary support roles under Strike Fighter Squadron 204 (VFA-204), nicknamed the “River Rattlers” and Fighter Squadron Composite 12 (VFC-12), nicknamed the “Fighting Omars.” The aircraft will also be employed by the US Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, until they transition to the Super Hornet towards the end of 2021.