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. Kevin Williams

    I’m a prior air force crew chief and in my eyes its a travesty. The blue angels and thunderbirds is about showcasing elite pilots as well as the aircraft.

  2. Allen

    Nice April fools joke. Don’t believe this for a moment… I call a big load of Bravo Sierra on this.

  3. Kurt Eskildsen

    Wouldn’t that be a bummer???? I imagine Fat Albert will become an unmanned Hurcules flown from an undisclosed location. LOL

  4. Julita M. Pumfrey

    No, comment as of this time just sent me an email of what’s goin on in a few year’s to come and thank you very much appreciated.


    oh no!!! Who will buy all those oversized watches? Will the pilots wear cool sunglasses in the trailer? The whole world wonders.

  6. pghiron

    Just think now we can all virtually watch the entire aerobatic display from the comfort of our sofas watching on on our tablet computers.

    April fools Blue Angels

  7. Robert Campbell

    I was on the air show circuit in 1997 as Captain of Hap Arnold’s C-41. We sat next to the Blues at the Lobster Feast in Princeton. They were all the epitome of good the looking American boy. They had a hell of a time fighting off the ladies. Security was busy. Now they’ll be able to select nerdy gamers to be Blue Angels since they’ll be out of sight in a trailer.

  8. Sam a

    I would love to see this be reality… who needs stupid pilots limiting a plane’s capabilities!

  9. Brian

    It’s an April Fool’s joke this year, but maybe not 5 years from now. Why continue to build combat airplanes with pilots in them? They’re ridiculously expensive, put lives at risk unnecessarily and their performance is limited by the pilot’s ability to remain conscious in high G maneuvers

    • Tim Rollins

      Get over yourself! There’s nothing like all that power between your legs, and the wind at your back at Mach 2+…

  10. Robert Heydon

    Quite certain that this is a very sick April-Fool message.

  11. Robert Davis

    There is no F-47 fighter jet. It’s a reference to the P-47 Thunderbolt, a WWII single engine fighter aircraft. April Fool’s!

    • Andy

      The photoshopped picture is of the X-47 experimental drone, which does exist and has even made a carrier landing. The P-47 was briefly referred to as the F-47 when the USAAC became the USAF in 1948. By that time it was mostly for export as the USAF was transitioning to jet fighters. In any event the Blues will be flying with pilots for some years to come I’m quite sure.

  12. RATMAN

    I heard their gonna create a new precision flying team using the B-52. What a joy that will be!!

  13. Rabbitleader

    Good one….Bravo Zulu, and in a few years Fomula 1 will be utilizing the same technology….no drivers…just teams.

  14. Luis Felix

    Ridiculuos, who is gonna like it? Perhaps a computer nerd but no an aviation fan.

    • Snuggie Boo Boo

      Shows how dumb photogs are that believe this. That is what drove me out of that hobby; too many prophets and know-it-all’s, not to mention the lack of socially acceptable public interaction skills, as well as the stepping on other photogs to get paid. Then they believe this crap and don’t get the joke.

  15. David Tipps

    I think i’m going to throw up. Please tell me this is a spoof. Since 1946 young men (including myself) across the American heartland have watched the Blues in awe and something stirred in them to say “I want to be a Blue Angel when I grow up. It’s where we get the famous quote from the naval air movie THE BRIDGES OF TOKO RI where an Admiral asks the question, “where do we get such men”? The human element, the pilot who fly’s and the honor, pride and respect attached to it is what makes the Blues special. Seeing and hearing each pilot climbing into the a/c he is going to fly is the what draws men to say “I can do that”. And now it’s being reduced to “and now operating Blue Angel #1 from the on site trailer is Cmdr Snorkel Snodgrass from Dallas Texas”. Playing a radio controlled video game may appeal to todays kids, but seven decades of fans will not be impressed. Better go watch them now before it all comes to an end.
    It’s not even pretty.

  16. Peace Love Bunny

    About damned time.

    Risking human lives like we did all those other times.


  17. Scott Wise

    I am praying this is an April fools joke! The Blue Angels were about encouraging young boys to dream about becoming Navy pilots. A showcase of patriotism by highly trained aviators able to fly with precision wing-tip distance apart and demonstrate combat maneuvers. Now, the Navy wants to play 4D XBox!!!

      • Emanon

        Yes we all know boys are not the only ones who fly but considering the Blue Angels are currently all male, there is currently a higher number of male pilots than female pilots and the other pretty common knowledge that more men will join the military it is a lot simpler to just say men so stop having the need to correct everybody that doesn’t say men/women. Have a nice day.

        • mel

          You are actually wrong. #8 pilot is a woman and she flies just not in the shows

  18. Dave M

    This is an April Fools joke.

    However I think it is time to give the Blue Angels brand new 2015 model Super Hornets and give them an updated painting scheme

  19. Tom R

    Inevitable progression of technology. Letting go of old traditions is always difficult but necessary. I am sure the knights said the same thing when gunpowder and guns from China replaced swords and shields in warfare in medieval Europe in the Middle Ages.

  20. scott

    Being that a f-47 is like 60-70 years old and definitely has a pilot because it is a thunderbolt, definitely a joke

    • John Doe

      Umm thats the P-47….. Not sure where you learned your plane history….

      But yes its pretty obvious this is an april fools joke.

      • Randy S

        I think that after the USAF name change the P-47 became the F-47, same way as the P-51 became the F-51, BOTH remained in service in the ANG units.

  21. Mann G

    This is a good April Fools gag but it may not be totally dumbfounded. The tragedy of Germanwings 9525, the development of drones and driverless google car and the sophistication of aviation technology itself may usher this probability. Advanced military aircraft can now be programmed to accomplish maneuvers beyond the limits the human body can withstand (from a video documentary.) With unmanned aircraft there will be a much diminished need to worry about human error, mental and emotional issues liked ptsd, capture and torture, retirement and veterans benefits, insurance and maintenance costs. This would also free up public funds for other needed programs or lessen the taxpayers’ burden. 🙂

  22. Steven S

    No pilots then cancel the show. Navy pilots are the best we have. Let the Thunderbirds or Golden Eagles do it just don’t ruin the Blue Angles name with unmaned toys.

  23. Jim f patterson

    Jesus H. Christ. I am a rotor head and even I see an April Fools day joke!

  24. Gerhard Frenz

    It’s a joke people….. And the aircraft is a x-47 drone, when operational it will be a D-47, not P-47 or F-47. The navy would never allow aircraft that expensive, to fly in formation and risk loosing them for air shows. April Fools

  25. Roger O'Day

    I can’t believe the jackwagons on this page.
    First you experts say it can’t be and forget the moron in charge of the military.
    Then you tell everyone how stupid they are for believing it.
    This is a joke. But the thought has been posted now and the moron in chief loves social media.
    He’s just stupid enough to order it.
    You act like he cares about the Military.
    Are you all that stupid.
    He has two years to finish jacking up this country. He’s not done yet.

    • ES Vaughan

      @ Roger O’Day – So you crack wise at the fools and yet you still find a way to turn an April Fool’s joke into a rant against the president. You say that the president doesn’t care about the military? Who does sir? The republican led congress or senate that still has not enacted a single piece of legislation to help veterans? What is it exactly that you think Obama should do to show more “care” for the military? Maybe he should use executive orders to attain the goals that you have not outlined? Of course then you would be griping about his over-reach. Jerks like you are what is ruining this country. Not Obama.

    • Weill

      Oh yes. The Republicans have supported the military to a much greater extent as witnessed by their votes to cut military benefits recently. You people who can’t do anything but repeat the shit you read on blogs really are a waste of oxygen.

    • John

      Yours may be the most severe case of Obama Derangement Syndrome yet seen. Get help. Immediately stop watching Fox News and listening to Limbaugh. Come back to a reality based universe. We miss you.

  26. momto4boys1girl

    Thank goodness this was tagged as an April Fool’s joke or I would have a very upset 9 year old little girl. Her dream has been to become a naval aviator and eventually become a Blue Angel pilot 🙂 Her dad is a veteran and she became obsessed at 3 years old with jets when we moved over by Oceana when he was stationed at the Norfolk Naval Base.

  27. JD Searle

    They’re stealthy,… nobody will be able to see or hear them.

  28. Mike Golch

    Good April Fools joke! the “unmanned: F-47 the F-47 was a WW2 piston engined aircraft.

      • Bradley B

        Yoshua, you’re right in that the P-47 was a WWII aircraft. However the designation F-47 was given to a Coast Guard version of the P-47 in 1948.

    • J. Luizzi

      You must mean the P-47 Thunderbolt. The P designator was dropped after WWII.

    • Julian Luce

      his isnt april fools i heard this today and they are going to be changing

      • Kimberly

        Um yes it was an April Fools joke. It was published on April 1.

  29. Mike Thomas

    How Stupid, This has to be a April Fools Joke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  30. Louis

    This is a hoax, as difficult as it is to fly the tight formations, it could never been done in drones. Airshowstuff should be ashamed for making such a statement.

  31. DD

    Sad…Won’t be the same ever!! I hope They will reconsider keeping the TRUE BLUE ANGELS flying. I am sure they can built new Hornets. I don’t think anyone would come to watch those drones knowing it’s run by laptops. Not the same as those real pilots done. They make us feel AWE with FEEEELLINGS. No computers will be able to replace that AWE…..will it??

  32. big E

    This is know joke they been playing with the x47 for a few years it on TV in Navy ad. I work on the F 4 a,b and j inthe navy.

  33. Charlie Hansen

    Are the Blue Angels really going to be flying unmanned, or is that just an April Fools Joke

  34. Dexter Greene

    Yes,I agree the Blue Angels F/A-18 hornets are very old and I often Wonder what would be the Hornets Replacement,I had a wild guess the it would be the F-35 Joint Strike fighter or the Super Hornets.

  35. Dexter Greene

    Yes,I agree the Blue Angels F/A-18 hornets are very old and I often Wonder what would be the Hornets Replacement,I had a wild guess that it would be the F-35 Joint Strike fighter or the Super Hornets.

  36. Ryan H

    Good grief. It says “April Fools” right in the hashtag of the original post. However, in all seriousness this does prompt the question of what airframe the Navy will transition to when the 18 becomes outdated. I think it should be entirely designed and built by people on the internet. I mean really, there is a huge untapped bank of knowledge there. You all know it is true; post any statement on any topic and the troll savants come out of the circuit boards. The new aircraft can be assigned to the Navy’s newest carrier group, who’s flagship is the U.S.S Troll-it-all helmed by Captain Obvious.

  37. 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.

  38. Richard

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

  39. 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.”

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

  43. Meputney

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

  44. 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.

  45. G Thomas

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

  46. tom

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

  47. 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

  48. Danny Hall

    Please don’t use drones…50 yes I’ve watched the blues. Have a special showing with the Drones…but leave the flying to these great officers..when they scream past you say to yourself there’s a pilot flying that aircraft… please don’t do this…signed born & raised in Pensacola Florida….

  49. Cory Synnott

    I just read this today and nearly threw my phone against the wall. If this were ever true it would be an extremely sad and awful day for the United States Navy and The United States Marine Corps pilots and community. You almost had me …

  50. Joshua Van Abel

    Although these drones look cool as hell, PLEASE don’t replace the iconic F-18s. These pilots are the heart and soul of the Navy and Marine corps. They inspire people when they get into those jets and put on the greatest airshow performance ever. With drones, it wouldn’t look or feel the same in any way. It would almost become boring because there aren’t real people in the planes. I personally love it when they are up there in the jets and we get to hear blue angles #1 call break over the speaker system and they preform the stunt. Please don’t use drones! We love the Blue Angel pilots and want to see them continue to fly!

    • Joshua Van Abel

      By the way what you should change to is the f-35 lighting (the Navy version). That would be totally freaking awesome!

      • Yoshua

        That won’t happen for a long time. Next aircraft will be the Super hornet. Blue Angels do not fly brand new jets, they fly the oldest aircraft in the Navy that are past their carrier life but still air worthy. F-35 is too new and the Navy doesn’t have many in their inventory.

  51. Keith Vendouern

    I think this will be the worst season ever if you switch to drones, its like a video game not an air show. Also how about the Thrust how do you make that noise from a drone? Really stinks. guess all we have left is the Thunderbirds.

  52. Edwin jimenez

    Hi just to know if in some in a future The Blue Angels air show will visit Puerto Rico
    I saw it ones years ago on the naval base rossevelt roads Puerto rico when was a kid.
    Is there a posibility.
    Justo ley us know thanks

  53. AJG1983

    wow, this article is over 2 years old and people still haven’t taken the time to realize it was an April Fools article

  54. John Saunders USN Retired

    This is one of the stupidest ideas the Navy has decided to do. First they change to cyber recruiting instead of the traditional recruiter. Now if someone wants information they get it from a computer website and don’t talk with someone who knows what the military is really about.
    Know they want to take away one of the prides of Naval Aviation by switching to a damn drone. Just like they stated in Men of Honor movie. The Navy was built on traditions, but know it’s just another over rated business!!!!

  55. Rajjski

    I see it as a potential life savor. Accidents have and will happen during these show, do an accident search on the last few seasons. It’s now the way of things.

  56. Christopher Blackwell

    I hope this idea gets “Shelved” in a hurry. If the Blue Angels are removing Naval Aviators from the aircraft then Stand down the Squadron. There’s no appreciation or feelings of Pride watching a Drone fly around and perform unrealistic manuevers. The whole point of the Blue Angels performing all these years with all those wonderul old jets. is to give Civilian enthusiasts an opportunity to see Real Fleet Navy and Marine Pilots perform as they have been trained and also to demonstrate the capabilities of the jet. This is a bad Idea and to be honest if this is true and the Blue Angels become Unmanned Drones, I won’t be attending ANY of their events. I’m going to say this: I served 21 yrs in the Marine Corps as a GCI controller, working daily with Navyand Marine Pilots as well as others from the USAF and of NATO countries. I can tell you that when I would see the Blue Angels at an event that Pride would swell up inside me because I know how hard it is to get those Gold Wings and how hard those guys work to be as good as they are. I knew why their shows were so damn impressive and why they can fly with such precision. I was a part of it myself. If you take the Human Pilot out of it then Please, “Stand Down the Squadron and let the memories live on with respect”.

  57. Christopher Blackwell

    Holy Shit!!! I’ve been had. This article is a joke , an April Fools joke. Look at the date…hahaha I’m so relieved

  58. Bobby Hudson

    I was nearly convinced about the “April Fools” joke until I saw the comments further down this page, then I was a joke. I’d like to see the transition to the F35s or another aircraft that’s up to date.

  59. Kevin Boehm

    Just went to the Great Rhode Island Air show today, anticipating the truly versatile and maneuverable x47 drone show, and was confused to see the remarkable F18 Hornets flying. Made my hotel reservations almost a year ago…. Great show as usual, now i find oit was had! I saw the F18 and x47 aircraft test flight online and figured this would be exciting. Diring the show i even thought there might be a 2 part show, starting with the F18s with an X47 Encore! Whoever wrote that got me hook line and sinker… gotta wonder how many others are spoofed….just too embarrassed to write….good one!

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