US Navy: Blue Angels Will Transition To Unmanned Aircraft Next Year

posted in: Jet Teams, Miscellaneous | 143
Blue Angels to Fly Drones
Blue Angels to Fly Unmanned Drone Aircraft – Artist’s Depiction

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 next 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.”

143 Responses

  1. James

    Great – we get to see the latest cutting edge bah blah blah… that’s not the point of the Blue Angels. They’ve been flying F-18 hornets – it’s not about the latest in tech nology, it’s the beauty and skill which these maneuvers are pulled off. Drones will ruin the show.

    • William Trawick

      I agree that the drones will be nothing like the “real thing.” I think the drones won’t draw as large of a crowd either. Personally, I won’t be drawn to attend their two shows here in Pensacola. The article mentioned appealing to the ones that want to sit at a computer. Will this “move” also do away with physical preparedness? I’m old school and don’t like that idea.

      • Aaron

        They are actually converting over to Super Hornets by September of this year ,they signed a contract with Boeing. This unmanned aircraft BS is stupid and not true.

    • Drone guy

      Even if the story was true, why would you stop watching them? Have you ever been to an RC airshow event? There are some very impressive things that can be done when the pilot is on the outside of the aircraft as opposed to inside.

      But alas…..This is only an April fool’s joke….So relax.

  2. Richard

    I’m sure this is the navy’s way of pulling the air force’s leg. He story cannot be for real!!

  3. Arthur King

    This story is more real than you might think:
    “Navy Secretary Ray Mabus really likes drones. He now has a whole deputy assistant secretariat for them. In contrast to the U.S. Air Force, his people aren’t yet burned out from operating them around the clock for over a decade. This April Fool’s Day even brought the annual joke about another aerial demonstration team—this time the Blue Angels—going unmanned. Except that if Cirque de Soleil can do it already, maybe the idea just isn’t that far-fetched. For those X-47B UCAS-Ds—Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrators—bought from Northrop Grumman have been taking off from carriers, landing on carriers, and refueling from 707s. That bodes well for the forthcoming UCLASS—Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike—competition. But for all that the secretary likes those drones from Northrop, further tests and evaluations of the airplane will proceed judiciously, so as not to give “the people that made UCAS a huge advantage over what the next iteration is.” And that may be a mistake.
    For background, the UCLASS competition is intended to provide each carrier with a squadron of long-endurance drones for scouting out and bombing things hundreds of miles away. Four companies will bid: Northrop Grumman with a further development of that X-47B ‘Iron Raven’ (excellent), Lockheed Martin with its Sea Ghost, Boeing with its Phantom Ray, and General Atomics with its Sea Avenger. As I wrote last August on Real Clear Defense, “that structure is a long way from the monopolization of the [combat aircraft] business that Lockheed Martin was presumed to have inherited by winning the Joint Strike Fighter contract some thirteen years ago.” Now, however, the SecNav is concerned that Northrop may have an advantage from the past four years of flight testing with the Navy.

    Of course it does. Lockheed has an advantage in stealth aircraft design and manufacturing from its past 18 years of building F-22s and F-35s. Boeing has an advantage in naval aircraft as the producer of most of the world’s currently serving carrier-based fighters. General Atomics Aeronautical has an advantage in drones from having focused almost solely for the past 20 years on designing and building Predators and Reapers. Every incumbent brings inalienable advantages to the next competition. For as Mark Lorell and Hugh Levaux wrote in their seminal study The Cutting Edge: A Half Century of U.S. Fighter Aircraft R&D (RAND, 1998), “experience matters, because of the tendency to specialize and thus to develop system-specific expertise.”
    (Recommended: Can China Really Rise Peacefully?)
    But they also wrote that “the most dramatic innovations and breakthroughs came from secondary or marginal players trying to compete with the industry leaders.” Depending on one’s perspective, that might be a description today of General Atomics, with its focus on relatively low-performance aircraft, or Boeing, with its relative limited track record in operational drones. Secondary and marginal really don’t describe Lockheed Martin in any way, but that just confirms that the company is an under-dog to no one in combat aircraft competitions. The beauty of the UCLASS program is that it will pit four rather dissimilar organizations against one another for a most prestigious contract.”

    http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-us-navys-big-challenge-ucas-d-versus-uclass-13035

  4. Ryan

    It’s not about the show, its for the Navy’s latest test on sending unmanned aircraft into war, there testing it in the airshow so if it crashes, it wont kill the pilot. its actually better because thin means our country is advancing finally.

  5. Jack

    April Fools hoax for sure. The Blue Angels would never switch to unmanned drones, plus it would absolutely ruin the show. Those stealth drones simply cant maneuver like an F-18 & it’s pilot can. It would require super advanced computers that don’t even exist yet to come anywhere close to a pilots skills fully unmanned. They are more for some ground attack & surveillance at best & you don’t need much maneuverability for those roles. They did get the approval to go ahead with converting to the more advanced Super Hornets. That will make the shows even better.

  6. John A

    Lol…we’ve seen this humor before…the Blue Angels are going to transition, but not to UAVS, rather FA-18 E super hornets.

  7. Meputney

    Mean Joke, now I might belive it was real if I was reading about the Thunderbirds

  8. Buzz

    The most ridiculous decision I ever heard of, as a aviator and pilot only the NAVY would make a decision like this, Air force pilots will for always exceed the skills and get the hard jobs, shame on our Navy! they think this is going to attract quality American warriors, GET BACK TO RELAITY AND GET THE AVIATOR BACK IN THE COCKPIT..I will never see this show, the USAF ThunderBirds show were always better anyway.

    • Kim

      It was an April Fools joke…you realize that don’t you. And I disagree…I have seen both shows…Navy is better. Much tighter formations.

  9. G Thomas

    Great news, Although I haven’t flown in 40 years, I have been invited to fly the # 4 slot.

  10. tom

    Great news, Although I haven’t flown in 40 years, I have been invited to fly the # 4 slot.

  11. Harvey Monroe

    America I Love you When I Hear you in the Air My Heart Goes With You I Thank God that you are here Because you Fly Over our House. We Know Your Safe, Because God is With You, We Just Wish We Could be With you. We Thank You, and May God BLESS You, and Protect you All, and your Families Be Blessed well Amen

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