In a surprise announcement today, the US Navy announced that the Blue Angels will transition from their current F-18 Hornets to unmanned F-47 aircraft for their 2018 airshow season. The team will still fly a full ‘delta’ aerobatic routine, including tight formations, using six of the cutting edge drones. The only difference is that the pilots will never leave the ground and will instead monitor the pre-programmed flight routines from special trailers set up at each show site. Since the aircraft are unmanned, the team will no longer offer media rides but will allow selected media representatives to ‘sit in’ on practice demonstrations using a virtual reality headset that will be known as Blue Angel 7, the same callsign as the team’s current two-seat media jet. The pilots will also be expected to post to social media during the routine to increase their interaction with fans.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for the Navy to showcase our advanced technology and cutting edge aircraft,” said Jack Herndon, the Navy’s Chief of Public Outreach. “Honestly, the Hornets are getting to be quite old and worn out. We saw the need to replace them and decided to take advantage of the timing by leaping straight ahead to our very newest fighter aircraft, the F-47. The Blue Angels’ primary mission is to inspire America’s young people to join the Navy, and with this transition we are able to demonstrate that even young men and women who only want to sit at a computer all day can have a successful Navy flying career. Those are exactly the people we are looking to recruit in the future.”