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Blue Angels upgrading to F/A 18 Super Hornets

Upgrading from classic Hornet

The Blue Angels will be converting to the F/A-18F Super Hornet.  (Photo: The Boeing Company)
The Blue Angels will be converting to the F/A-18F Super Hornet. (Photo: The Boeing Company)

Patuxent River, Md. – The U.S. Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team has begun its transition to the F/A 18 Super Hornet under a recently approved contract with Boeing.

“We are supporting the Navy’s plans to transition the Blue Angels to Super Hornet aircraft from classic Hornets by providing engineering for the necessary conversion modifications. We are proud to continue our association with the Blue Angels as they demonstrate the precision and professionalism of Naval Aviation to millions each year,” Paul Guse, a spokesman for Boeing, said Thursday in an emailed statement.

News 6 partner Florida Today reports that under the $12 million contract, Boeing is expected to finish the work before September 2017.

A spokesman for the Blue Angels referred questions about the conversion to the Navy’s Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Maryland. The command did not immediately return messages seeking additional information about the conversion.

The elite flight demonstration team has flown different models of the F/A 18 Hornet since 1986.

During a community event celebrating the team’s 70-year history earlier this month, Blue Angels solo pilot Lt. Ryan Chamberlin told the crowd that the team would eventually transition to the Super Hornet. Ryan said the conversion would take time because the Super Hornet is a different air frame from what the pilots are accustomed to flying in their tight formations.

The Blue Angels typically receive aircraft after the planes have been flown for years in the regular Navy fleet. The planes are then customized for Blue Angels flying with features including a spring-loaded flight stick, which allows the pilots to maneuver the jets within 18 inches of each other.

Blue Angels pilots do not wear the G-suits worn by other jets pilots. Inflatable bladders in the suits help pool blood in the pilots’ upper extremities to keep them from passing out. The Blue Angels using breathing techniques and abdominal exercises to fight the G-forces because the inflatable bladders in the legs of the suits could interfere with the control of the flight stick.

Blue Angels and other Navy officials did not immediately respond to questions about whether pilots would use G-suits once the team converts to the Super Hornets.

According to a Navy fact sheet, the Super Hornet, which has been in operational use by the military since 2002, has a longer range than the Hornet, aerial refueling capability, and improved carrier sustainability.

BLUE ANGELS AIRCRAFT

Aircraft flown by the Blue Angels through the team’s 70-year history:

1946: F6F Hellcat

1946-1949: F8F Bearcat

1949-1950: F9F-2 Panther

1951-1955: F9F-5 Panther

1955-1957: F9F-8 Cougar

1957-1968: F11-1 Tiger

1969-1974: F-4J Phantom II

1974-1986: A-4F Skyhawk II

1986-2010: F/A 18 Hornet A/B

2010-Present: F/A 18 Hornet C/D