Home RC Airplane Reviews Exceed-RC F-18 Review
Exceed-RC F-18 Review Print E-mail
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Friday, 08 July 2011 19:10


The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F/A-18 Hornet is a supersonic, all-weather carrier-capable multirole fighter jet, designed to dogfight and attack ground targets (F/A for Fighter/Attack). Designed by McDonnell Douglas and Northrop, the F/A-18 was derived from the latter's YF-17 in the 1970s for use by the United States Navy and Marine Corps. The Hornet is also used by the air forces of several other nations. It has been the aerial demonstration aircraft for the U.S. Navy's Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, since 1986.

The F/A-18 has a top speed of Mach 1.8. It can carry a wide variety of bombs and missiles, including air-to-air and air-to-ground, supplemented by the 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon. Its two General Electric F404 delivers 17,750 pounds-force (79.0 kN) each with afterburner, giving the aircraft a high thrust-to-weight ratio. The F/A-18 has excellent aerodynamic characteristics, primarily attributed to its leading edge extensions (LERX). The fighter's primary missions are fighter escort, fleet air defense, suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD), air interdiction, close air support and aerial reconnaissance. Its versatility and reliability have proven it to be a valuable carrier asset. Carrying a crew of 2 it has a range of just over 1,000 miles and a service ceiling of 50,000 feet with a rate of climb at 50,000 feet per minute. In other words....amazing.


I’m always on the lookout for fast and fun jets, so when I found the Exceed RC F-18 on sale I jumped at the chance to order one. I went away on vacation, but when I returned there was a big box in my office waiting to be unwrapped and photographed.

Kit Contents

The F-18 arrived in perfect condition with all of the parts securely wrapped and packaged inside the box. I ordered the Almost-Ready-To-Fly version so it came with the motor, esc, and all servos. The only thing I needed to provide was a battery, receiver and massive brain power. The kit also included fixed landing gear, enough ordinance to defend Guam, an extra canopy and other accessories. The ARF version comes mostly pre-assembled so I knew putting the jet together would be a cinch.




Assembling the Exceed-RC F-18 is very simple since most of the plane is already put together. The main tool that is used to put together the F-18 is Epoxy so get your brushes ready! Before epoxying anything, I went through and scuffed up the edges of all the wings, elevators and vertical stabs since they were painted. A scuffed surface will hold better than two painted surfaces smooshed together.


After the paint was sanded off, I mixed up some 5-minute epoxy and coated the edges of wings to secure them to the body. The connection to the body of the plane is not ‘slotted’ so be careful to hold the wing level and still while the epoxy dries. If you’re shaky or have nervous hands; clamps would be a good alternative to keep the wings from moving while the glue is drying.

Moving towards the rear of the plane I found it easier to epoxy in the elevators and vertical stabs since they were both slotted and made a good fit that didn’t require still hands.


The control horns attach to the ailerons and elevators with glue, so make sure you have them facing the correct direction before securing them down.


Before attaching the control rods to the control horns I plugged in a receiver and made sure all of the servos were centered on the airplane. Everything lined up really well, but I noticed one of the aileron servos was acting ‘funny’. When I pushed left or right on the gimbal, the ailerons would respond appropriately except the right aileron servo would not always center immediately after given input. I thought about it and decided I didn’t want to have a servo that *might* have issues while screaming through the air so I swapped it out with a servo I had lying around.

After taking care of the servo issues, I moved my attention to the landing gear. The F-18 comes with either fixed landing gear or electric retracts. The kit with the electric retracts cost quite a bit more so I sprang for the cheaper fixed gear kit. Now I wish I would’ve gone for the electric retracts.


When I first installed the gear I thought to myself “Oh, what a simple, effective design!” Now I know that was a foolish thinking on my part. The fixed gear sit on top of wooden boxes that glue into the bottom of the fuselage. The included manual was completely unclear as to which way the gear were supposed to go, so I went with what looked right. The gear lay in pre-cut slots and a wooden panel covers over top and is secured with screws to hold the gear in place. Seems simple enough right? It is simple, perhaps too simple for reasons I will explain later in the review. The nose gear was terribly sloppy and did not feel very secure, but for the sake of the review I kept everything stock.


Once the gear was done, I slapped on the nose cone and the Exceed RC F-18 was completed!


The Exceed F-18 has a sleek paint job that looks nice not only on the ground but up in the air. The red-on-silver is accented wonderfully, making it easy to maintain orientation. The F-18 comes with a 70mm fan and 2750kv brushless motor that is powered by a 45 amp ESC. The jet is made out of EPO foam, but it is so smooth and coated with thick paint, one would hardly know the foam is EPO. Overall the plane looks very scale and I like the option to have a canopy with one or two pilots and a wide variety of bombs and missiles to put on the jet.

First Flight

The weather was beautiful and I was excited to get the jet in the air. I was concerned about the sloppy gear, but in my gut I knew if I could get the jet in the air it would fly excellent given the power-to-weight ratio.

My concerns were justified when I barely pushed on the throttle and the F-18 moved down the runway about 5 feet before shimmying, shaking and collapsing on the weak gear. I picked the jet up and with several other club members worked on the gear until they felt a little more secure. Setting the plane back on the runway I was able to move about 7 feet before the jet violently swayed, tipped on the nose and collapsed on the weak gear. Unhappy, I packed everything up and came back a week later.

After spending the week performing several mods and securing the gear in by Gorilla Glue I was confident it would get off the ground. After the 3rd attempt, the result was the same and I was thoroughly unpleased. Crazy Thumbs picked the jet up and declared we should hand launch it and at this point and time I was open to anything. Once again, I figured the plane would fly with authority if I could just get it in the air.

Ol’ Crazy took a few steps forward and launched the Exceed RC F-18 into the air like a shot putter at the Olympics. Just as I thought, the plane shot into the air and had plenty of power to fly. The elevator needed about 7 or 8 clicks of up trim, but once the trim was set, the plane was completely dialed in. The F-18 flew with authority and I was thoroughly pleased with the performance of the model. On a 4S 2200mah battery everything was in perfect balance. The F-18 screamed up and down the runway for 5 minutes creating a huge grin on my face. Even with the stock setup the jet is nimble, quick and very responsive. I loved the roll rate and there was so much throw in the elevator I could almost hover the plane like a 3D jet.

After the 5 minute mark I brought the jet in on the dilapidated landing gear and tried to do a high alpha maneuver to set the plane down gently, but I was only mildly successful. At least the maiden flight was mostly successful.

Flight Characteristics

The Exceed RC F-18 flies extremely well and has a strong motor that pushes the jet to respectable speeds. On the lowest setting the control surfaces have a healthy amount of movement and make the EDF jet very responsive in the air. Rolls are ridiculous and the elevator is sensitive to the slightest input. Expo would be a good thing to program into the radio for this jet. Surprisingly the F-18 floats very well, but I would not want to take it slope soaring. I didn’t feel the need to keep the speed up in the turns like other jets and during slow flight the wings were stable with very little wing rock.

At full throttle the jet screams and cuts through the wind without a hitch. It is a very solid design for aerodynamic flight.

Takeoffs and Landings

I never did get a good rolling-on-the-ground launch, but I will say the gear is sensitive to steering input while rolling. Personally I feel the nose gear is way too tall and rickety to be effective. The rear gear sports a narrow stance and needs serious bending to get them in the proper shape to be able to adequately support the jet.

Hand launching is really not too difficult since there are perfect finger holds in the recesses where the retracts should be. The plane has enough power that it could probably be launched straight up (don’t actually try that unless you like the risk).

Landing is very straight forward as long as you remember to give the jet plenty of room to glide back to the earth. Like most jets the F-18 will continue to glide long after the power is removed. During the final glide the elevator is super touchy and the slightest touch will cause the nose to pitch up. Give yourself a long, flat approach and the plane will descend to the earth like a leaf, a big gray and red leaf with missiles.

Is This Plane For a Beginner?

No definitely not. Even with strong, reliable landing gear this is a hot little number that would end up in multiple pieces at the hands of a beginner. An intermediate pilot could handle the jet, especially if some expo or lower rates were dialed in on the control surfaces.

Terrible, Terrible Landing Gear

So what’s the big deal about the gear? In short the whole gear setup is dreadfully weak. The stance of the main gear is way too narrow and to make matters worse they do not clip, secure or screw into anything! They merely lay down in the pre-cut grooves and a wood panel lies over top of them like a warm blanket. To make matters worse the wood covering is designed to only be held in by 3 screws. Three? Why not four, two or none? The inner side of the gear is only held down by one measly screw which unsurprisingly does NOT do the trick. There is a plenty of slop in the gear even when the 3 screws are tightened as tight as they can go.

Moving towards the nose of the plane I was completely underwhelmed with the nose gear. The strut is way too thin and long to support the nose of the plane while it barrels down the runway. The strut secures into a clear plexi-glass mount that is strong, but the design is lacking. There was so much play in the design the nose gear danced around like a bear with an accordion. Unfortunately, I was not singing along. The craftsmanship is minimal and I spent a whole night filing and tightening up the nose gear so it was sturdier.

What is so odd about the gear is that it does not fit with the rest of the plane. Overall the F-18 is a well thought out and easy to put together. The gear is more of an afterthought and it is obvious they would prefer a customer to buy the electric retracts instead of putting time and effort into a quality fixed gear design.


The Exceed RC F-18 is a great looking jet that could be a superstar if it did not suffer from such weak landing gear. I am going to assume that the electric retract version is much more solid and adds to the plane’s overall looks, performance and ability to actually taxi on the ground. Even with the bad gear the jet is a sweet flier that is responsive and agile. With mixed flying the plane lasts about 6-7 minutes on a 4S 2200mah battery. The build was simple and although I like flying the F-18 it receives a lower grade due to the poor design on the gear. If you’re thinking about this one, tape the bottom for belly landings or design your own fixed gear, don’t rely on what comes in the box.



  • Easy Build
  • Powerful Fast Stock Setup
  • Nice EPO foam and paint
  • 2 Canopies and an insane amount of missiles


  • Some of the weakest landing gear I have seen in recent years
  • An aileron servo had a mind of its own, that kind of independent thinking landed him in the trash







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