Boeing has delivered the first Super Hornet test aircraft for the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron, the company announced.
The unpainted aircraft now enters the flight test and evaluation phase at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. Boeing expects to deliver a total of 11 aircraft for the squadron in 2020.
“The Super Hornet is an iconic representation of excellence in naval aviation,” said ret. Admiral Pat Walsh, vice president of U.S. Navy & Marine Corps Services for Boeing. Walsh flew with the Blue Angels from 1985 to 1987 as the Left Wingman (#3) and Slot Pilot (#4). “As Boeing continues to support the operational fleet of Navy Super Hornets, we are excited to see this platform enter a critical phase of its journey to joining the team.”
The flight demonstration squadron has flown Boeing or Boeing-heritage aircraft for more than 50 years, starting with the F-4J Phantom II in 1969, and then moving to the A-4F Skyhawk. The team currently operates the F/A-18A-D Hornet.
Boeing converts F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets into Blue Angels at the company’s Cecil Field facility in Jacksonville, Florida. Major modifications include the addition of an oil tank for the smoke-generation system, fuel systems that enable the aircraft to fly inverted for extended periods of time, civilian-compatible navigation equipment, cameras and adjustments for the aircraft’s center of gravity.
In 2018, Boeing was awarded the delivery order in support of the conversion of eleven F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft for the Blue Angels team. The delivery order was for the retrofit documentation and kits to convert nine F/A-18E (single-seater) and two F/A-18F (twin-seater) aircraft into a Blue Angels configuration in accordance with engineering change proposal 6480.
The Blue Angels is the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, with aviators from the Navy and Marines. The Blue Angels team was formed in 1946, making it the second oldest formal flying aerobatic team (under the same name) in the world, after the French Patrouille de France formed in 1931.
The Blue Angels have flown a variety of aircraft since their establishment, and started flying F/A-18 variants in 1986. Since 2010, the squadron has been flying the F/A-18 Hornet C/D and are now starting an upgrade to the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet. The F/A-18E single-seat and F/A-18F tandem-seat variants are larger and more advanced derivatives of the F/A-18C and D Hornet.
The Blue Angels team is also procuring an Ex-Royal Air Force (RAF) C-130J Super Hercules tactical airlifter as a replacement of its now retired Lockheed C-130T Hercules aircraft, nicknamed “Fat Albert”. The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC)-operate aircraft is used for logistics, carrying spare parts, equipment, and to carry support personnel between shows.