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The F/A-18A was the Navy’s first ‘swing fighter’ which meant that the aircraft was capable of switching to an air superiority role without dumping its bomb load during a strike mission. Despite its short range, the aircraft demonstrated significant combat capability and was eventually adopted not only by the US Navy and US Marine Corps, but also the air arms of Australia, Canada, and Spain. Other nations have adopted the later F/A-18C Hornet in their ranks.

While the F/A-18A was scheduled to be replaced by the F/A-18C or F/A-18E, some units within the US Navy and US Marine Corps have retained the A-model but many of these have been given service life extensions and many were also given avionics updates including replacing the original APG-65 radar with the APG-73. One visible update is the addition of the IFF interrogator antenna array on the top of the nose ahead of the windscreen. These updated Hornets were designated as F/A-18A+.

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