In the mid to late 1980s, the Navy transferred eight F/A-18As and one F/A-18B to NASA to be used by the Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility for chase and proficiency flying. They eventually replaced all of the F-104 Starfighters that had previously been operated by NASA. NASA has also used its Hornets for a variety of research projects, the first of these being the High Alpha program begun in 1987 to study airflow surrounding the aircraft in high angle-of-attack attitudes.
In the 1990s, three more F/A-18s were transferred to NASA.
The Bureau of Aeronautics serials of the Hornets assigned to NASA were:
160780 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-2-MC Hornet to NASA as 840 in 1985 160781 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18B-2-MC Hornet to NASA as 845 in July 1986 161213 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-4-MC Hornet to NASA as 844. Crashed 10/7/88 161214 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-4-MC Hornet to NASA as 842 in August 1987 161216 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-4-MC Hornet to NASA as 841 in October 1985 161217 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18B-4-MC Hornet (Lot 3) to NASA as 852. 161250 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-4-MC Hornet to NASA as 843 in October 1987. 161355 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18B-5-MC Hornet (Lot 4) 161355 to NASA as 846. 161520 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-7-MC Hornet to NASA as 847 in September 1989. 161703 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-8-MC Hornet (Lot 5) to NASA as 850. 161949 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A-12-MC Hornet to NASA as 848 in December 1989.
One of the F/A-18As (160780) was later converted into the HARV research aircraft. I also have evidence of an F/A-18 with a NASA number of 851, but I don't know the BuNo. Anyone out there?