Boeing has handed over its first F/A-18E Super Hornet test aircraft to the US Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron.
The company is expecting to deliver 11 examples to the Blue Angels this year. The unit currently operates a number of legacy F/A-18A/B/C/D Hornets, which will be replaced by the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in public demonstrations from 2021.
The unpainted aircraft – F/A-18E BuNo 165667 (c/n 1518, line number E021) – will now be used to support the flight test and evaluation phase of the transition, which will take place at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Maryland.
ADM Pat Walsh, vice president of US Navy and Marine Corps Services for Boeing, said: “The Super Hornet is an iconic representation of excellence in naval aviation… 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 Blue Angels have displayed using Boeing or Boeing-heritage aircraft for more than 50 years, starting with the F-4J Phantom II in 1969. The team then transitioned to the A-4F Skyhawk II in 1974 before adopting the F/A-18 Hornet in 1986.
Boeing is converting the 11 fighters at its Cecil Field facility in Jacksonville, Florida. This includes the addition of an oil tank for the aircraft’s smoke-generation system, new fuel systems that allow the F/A-18E/F to fly inverted for extended periods of time, civilian-compatible navigation equipment, cameras and adjustments to the aircraft’s centre of gravity.