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Just like our Hornet software development has never stopped. We are still fielding one to two software versions every year and one major revision every 1.5 to two years.
The difference, in my opinion, is that there was a limited, but large, production run (F/A-18 A/Bs) contracted and completed following prototyping (YF-17) and merging the designs of the F-18, the A-18 and a TF-18. Those were followed by the F/A-18 C/D less than ten years after introduction and finally the distantly related F/A-18 E/F/G Super Hornets some 5 to 10 years later.
F-18 A/B/C/D Built 1480 between 1982 and 2000 - 18 years
F-18 E/F Built 608 between 1995 and 2020 - 25 years
F-35 First Flight 2006
F-35 IOC (USMC) 2015
F-35 Built 625 between 2006 and 2020 - 14 years.
F-35 to be built 3100 by 2035.
And, as you note Max - the F18 has been going through its own "continuous improvement" exercise for the last 40 years. And its own criticisms.
It will not surprise me if the final improvement, the final iteration, is as a Drone.