Officials of the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., announced a $12.1 million contract late last month to the Boeing Co. Defense, Space & Security segment in St. Louis to adapt F/A-18E/F aircraft to the needs of the Blue Angeles.
The Blue Angels typically perform flight maneuvers at more than 70 air shows at 34 locations throughout the U.S. each year. The flight demonstrations consist of six modified supersonic jet fighters, which divide into two groups -- one of four aircraft, and other with two. The four aircraft typically fly a diamond formation, while the two other aircraft fly crowd-pleasing maneuvers.
The Blue Angels have operated early versions of the F/A-18 Hornet jet for 30 years -- far longer than they have flown any other aircraft type since the Blue Angeles first started participating in public air shows in 1946.
The F/A-18A, C, B, and D models no longer are manufactured and reportedly are showing their age. Pieces of the aircraft control surfaces reportedly have fallen off during performances in recent years.
The Super Hornet is 25 percent larger and has 40 percent more range than the F/A-18C/D, making the aircraft substantially larger than its predecessors. The Super Hornet comes in the single-seat F/A-18E and the tandem-seat F/A-18F.
Since their beginning in 1946, the blue Angeles flew the Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat from June to August 1946; the Grumman F8F-1 Bearcat from 1946 to 1949; the Grumman F9F-2 Panther -- the group's first jet -- from 1949 to 1950; the F9F-5 Panther from 1951 to 1955; the Grumman F9F-8 Cougar from 1955 to 1957; the Grumman F11 Tiger from 1957 to 1969; the McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II from 1969 to 1974; the Douglas A-4F Skyhawk from 1974 to 1986; and the McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F/A-18A/B/C/D Hornet from 1986 to today.
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The contract to Boeing is for modifying F/A-18E/F models for the Blue Angeles flight-demonstration maneuvers. Changes may include removing the Super Hornet’s gun and missile launchers; installing flight auxiliary fuel pumps that can operate in sustained inverted maneuvers; inserting an oil pump in the tail to emit blue smoke; and adding a spring to the control stick for better handling in formation and inverted flight.
On this contract Boeing will do the work in El Segundo, Calif., and in St. Louis, and should be finished by September 2017. For more information contact Boeing Defense, Space & Security online at www.boeing.com/defense; Naval Air Systems Command at http://www.navair.navy.mil/; or the Blue Angels flight demonstration team at www.blueangels.navy.mil.