In August of 1988, the Al Quwwat al Jawwiya al Kuwaitiya (Kuwait Air Force) ordered 40 Hornets (32 single-seaters, 8 two-seaters). These aircraft were to be built to F/A-18C and D standards and were to be equipped with more powerful F404-GE-402 turbofans. The Kuwaiti Hornets were in fact to be the very first Hornets that would be powered by this version of this engine. The Kuwaiti Hornets are sometimes referred to as KAF-18C and D, although these are not official DoD designations.
Delivery had originally been scheduled to commence in August of 1991, but the occupation of Kuwait by Iraq and the ensuing Gulf War delayed the delivery of the Hornets. However, even during the time of the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, the manufacture of the Kuwaiti Hornets still continued despite the uncertainty.
Following the ejection of Iraqi occupation forces from Kuwait, the delivery program went forward. The first KAF-18D (serial number 441) was flown on September 19, 1991, and officially presented to the KAF on October 8. The early KAF aircraft were Block 35 aircraft, but were fitted with the -402 powerplant in a production line which otherwise used the -400. The first three Hornets were flown to Kuwait on January 25, 1992, and the last of the initial batch (from Block 40) arrived in Kuwait on August 21, 1993. completing the initial order for 32 KAF-18Cs and eight KAF-18Ds. Options for a further 32 Hornets were cancelled.
The Hornets first received were given to No 25 Squadron operating from Kuwait International Airport, but they were eventually transferred to Ali Al Salem military air base. Later machines went to No 4 Squadron. Both of these squadrons previously operated the A-4KU Skyhawk.
Kuwait Air Force Hornets flew missions over Iraq during Operation Southern Watch in the 1990s.