The first Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron arrived at the squadron’s homebase of Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola in Pensacola, Florida on July 27.
The aircraft was flown by Capt. Eric Doyle, Director of the Blue Angels Super Hornet Transition Team, from Boeing Cecil field facility in Jacksonville, Florida.
“Acquiring our first Super Hornet is a momentous step in our inevitable transition scheduled for later this year and it required a herculean effort to get these fleet jets ready for our team,” said Cmdr. Brian Kesselring, commanding officer and flight leader of the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels.
The Blue Angels are slated to transition to the F/A-18 Super Hornet later this year after using the F/A-18 Hornet for 34 years.
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.
Boeing converts F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets into Blue Angels at the company’s Cecil Field facility. 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.
Boeing recently delivered the first Super Hornet test aircraft to the Blue Angels.
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.