The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F/A-18 Hornet is a supersonic twin engine all-weather night fighter and attack aircraft. The F/A-18s first flew in November 1978 and the first production flight on April 12, 1980. The first 380 aircraft were F/A-18As and in September 1987 production switched to the F/A-18C. Variants A and C are single-seat aircraft while B and D are tandem-seats. The Hornet can operate from either aircraft carriers or land bases with the capability of in flight refueling. A total of 1,480 A-D variants were built.
Three F/A-18 Hornets were acquired from the USN by NASA between 1984 and 1991 of which 1 was a two-seater, NA852. One of the single-seats was F/A-18A Hornet 161703 c/n 48/A037 that was delivered to the USN and was flown by the Pacific Missile Test Center (PMTC-60) located at Point Mugu. When it transferred to NASA it was registered as N850NA. The single-seat F/A-18 acted as a chase plane along with the camera equipped N852NA but NA850 was only used for an extra pair of eyes.