Although different in shape and easy to tell apart, the F-16 Falcon and the F-18 Hornet are in the same category of light, fast fighters. They were designed to compliment the larger, air superiority fighter such as the F-15 and F-16 respectively. Although the same in purpose, there are significant differences between the Falcon and the Hornet. Most notably in the F-16 Vs F-18 speed department.
Before getting into the details, it should be noted that the two most obvious differences between the aircraft are the single engine on the F-16, while the F-18 sports two engines. Plus, the Falcon is designed to be flown from land bases, while the Hornet is designed to be launched from carriers, although it can land on airstrips as well.
Despite having one engine compared to the two featured on the Hornet, the F-16 can reach speeds of Mach 2 while the F-18 can only reach Mach 1.8. While seemingly similar, that .2 difference is more than enough for the Falcon to easily win a speed race versus the Hornet. But there are other important differences between the planes as well.
The purchase price of an F-16 is roughly half that of the F-18. This assumes that you are using the price guides for a newly manufactured aircraft. However, such a price difference is acceptable because of the twin engines of the Hornet compared to the single engine of the F-16. Plus, the fact that the Hornet has additional strength added to land on carrier decks.
In addition, the F-18 is considerably more expensive to operate, nearly three times that of the Falcon. This makes the F-18 a considerably higher investment for the initial and operating cost, which is why the Falcon is more prevalent in the air forces of other countries.
Again, the F-16 has the advantage thanks to its sleek construction and emphasis on dogfighting abilities. While the Hornet is more suited to combat at longer ranges. This is arguably the real difference in design protocols as the F-18 is a more versatile fighter, a generalist competing against the more specialized F-16
Here, the F-18 has the advantage thanks to its long range. It is a larger aircraft that carries greater bomb loads as well. This is because the F-18 was designed to do many things well as opposed to a few things quite well. This translates to a longer range, more versatile attack aircraft.
Another difference is that the F-16 is still in service and will be for the foreseeable future until completely phased out by the F-35. The F-18A has recently been retired from the US Navy with no plans to bring it back. However, the US Marines continue to use the F-18 and will do so for at least the next decade.
While the Falcon easily wins the F-16 Vs F-18 speed battle, the differences between the two fighters are remarkable. Despite being built for essentially the same function, both bring unique attributes and capabilities that have made them favorites with their pilots.