Blue Angels Don't Want the Navy's New Planes. Here's Why...
The Blue Angels have been a beloved part of American air shows for decades and this is largely due to the speed and aerial acrobatics of the squad's jets, the F18 Hornet.
This fleet can perform slick maneuvers and a precision turns because of their shape, weight and the pilot's familiarity with the systems. If the Navy go ahead with plans to upgrade the fleet, this could change.
For years now, the Blue Angels have had a strong love affair with the F/A-18 Hornet. Despite the plane's increasing age and the wear and tear that has been observed over the years, the Navy's demonstration team are keen to hold onto these planes for as long as possible. At the moment, they have three of the A models, ten of the upgraded C models and three two seater option. They are a good fit for their needs and they see no reason to trade for a younger, fitter model.
The Blue Angles may want to stick with F18s, but that Navy has other ideas
The problem is that the Navy isn't giving them a lot of choice in the matter. Their narrow-minded approach to updating their fleet of aircraft has meant that there is one successor to the F/A-18 Hornet, the unimaginatively named Super Hornet. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter does not enter service until 2019. The idea is that the Blue Angels will upgrade to these Super Hornet planes as the current fleet are taken out of service. This sounds great in theory, but it all depends on the definition of an upgrade. As far as the Blue Angels are concerned, these new models are not as desirable as the current model.
There is a clear conflict of interests here. On the one side, we have a group that sees the need to scrap an old fleet of jets in order to enjoy a much needed revamp within the demonstration team. Some of these planes are more than 30 years old and most have seen at least two decades of service. This is obviously a problem for some in the Navy, particularly when the see parts of the planes falling off in mid-air, but there is another side to the issue. First, there is the problem of cost, as it will be pretty expensive to update this new fleet. Each jet costs $60.9 million and there is the added cost of that eventual upgrade to the F-35. Is the cost really justified? The Blue Angels would say no because of the second reason for objection – they prefer flying the original Hornet. The pilots feel that the extra 7000lbs of weight on the “super” model affect maneuverability and performance.
Will the Blue Angels win this little battle?
Some may question why it matters so much if the Blue Angels have older Hornets or brand new Super Hornets, as long as the Navy has access to the best jet fighters possible. To some, the upgrade may seem like the best option because it means that the full fleet has the best technology and is combat ready, but that doesn't mean that the demonstration team should have to sacrifice elements of their performance in the process.