The US Navy demonstration team has been flying the legacy Hornet for a long time and I was wondering why don't they use the Super Hornet? The legacy Hornet is over 30 years old and showing its age. I know there have been numerous incidents during shows where control surfaces have broken off the planes.

Why aren't they using the newer airframes? Is it the cost of upgrading? Performance concerns?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ In addition to aeroalias's excellent answer, the obvious follow-up is "why didn't they do so sooner", the answer being that they don't really need to; the Super Hornet's improvements are largely around combat avionics, payload and range on internal fuel, none of which are critical concerns for a demo squadron that flies totally clean aircraft from the nearest airbase to the show and back. $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Aug 12, 2016 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithS that would make a good answer $\endgroup$
    – ebrohman
    Aug 12, 2016 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ The Chinese counterparts used MIG21 derivatives well into the 21st century. When you don't need a lot of range can can cut weight by carrying minimal fuel, a lot of fighters would have much better maneuverability than in a combat situation, e.g. the Iranian F14A vs F15 story, making them capable for the job for a long time. $\endgroup$ Jun 6, 2017 at 15:55

2 Answers 2


The USN Blue Angel demonstration team is transitioning to Super Hornets. According to this press report:

“We are supporting the Navy’s plans to transition the Blue Angels to Super Hornet aircraft from classic Hornets by providing engineering for the necessary conversion modifications. ...,” Paul Guse, a spokesman for Boeing, said Thursday in an emailed statement.

The transition will take some time for carrying out the necessary modifications including...

..., installing flight auxiliary fuel pumps that can operate in sustained inverted manoeuvres and inserting an oil pump in the tail to emit blue smoke.

...among others. Also, as the aircraft performance is different (the Super Hornet is larger and heavier, for one thing), the aircrew will have to train on the new aircraft before participating in any airshows.

A lot of the weight difference may be handled by removing the combat hardware but the size and handling characteristics will require a lot of training and practice time before the super hornet can be used in the precision flying exercises used in air shows.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Aug 1, 2018 at 8:52

Former F-14 RIO Ward Carroll has just uploaded a video on the Blue Angels:

At 31m15s, he starts talking about the transition to the Super Hornet. Courtesy of YouTube, here's the relevant excerpt of the transcript:

now this year for the first season ever the blue angels have transitioned to the super hornet now this has been work for about five years they started thinking about it 2015 2016. so the blue angels have 11 airplanes they take seven on the road so that doesn't give them a lot of depth in the event that an airplane isn't working and they can't have airplanes not working they have to do a six airplane show so that's a lot of maintenance pressure which also should be mentioned that not only are the six aviators awesome so are the maintainers that they have on the team these folks are best in class as well and they work very hard everything from the air framers to hydraulics to the corrosion guys to the crew chiefs to the videographers and the public affairs team big part of the blue angels is public affairs so those folks are all working very hard around the clock to make sure that the show comes off each and every time you remember the summer of 2020 they were doing these sort of wings across america stuff some of them were with the thunderbirds but it wasn't the full up show routine so they had a lot of time on their hands they used some of that for goodwill visiting hospitals and and going out to communities and spreading the good word about naval aviation in the u.s navy and marine corps but they were not being tasked as they normally are so that allowed them to sort of take action on the transition in a more deliberate manner and so they made it made it happen now the three concerns basically that they had with going from the legacy hornet to the super hornet were paint springs and smoke so paint is not so much painting an airplane blue but it's removing the paint of a fleet asset that's the haze gray color and in the process they were afraid they would discover corrosion and that corrosion in some cases would force the airplanes that they'd identified to go into a rehab that can take a long time to get that airplane into the shape it needs to be in and so paints number one number two is springs so the blue angels have to have seven pounds of forward stick pressure on the controls at all times and that's so they can fly smoothly so in the f4 they used to trim down so they would have that forward stick pressure the f-18 doesn't have that much nose down trim so it has to they had to actually put a physical spring on the stick it's a bungee that goes from the bulkhead in front of the stick to the stick it's stick itself so when they're flying level flight the pilot is pulling back with seven pounds of pressure just to keep that airplane stable so you need great arm strength and this is why the blue angels work out so much great core strength to fight the g without a g suit on and great arm strength to make sure you can hold that airplane for 45 minutes with seven pounds of forward pressure where that bungee is on the legacy hornet there's a duct a cooling duct on the super horn so they couldn't put it there so they had to do an engineering investigation to find out a place to secure that spring on the super hornet the third is smoke so the blue angel as anybody who's ever seen the videos of the show or been to a show have smoke coming out the back of the airplane right it's not fuel dumping out of the dump mast it's smoke that's coming out of the back of the airplane so you have a smoke canister so on the legacy horn the real estate that is needed to have a smoke canister was an easy thing to solve because they pulled the gun out of the nose and that's where the smoke canister went but as they started to investigate this for the super hornet they found out two things first the subcontractor that manufactures that tank is no longer in business and part two is they discovered the size of the old one won't fit into the super hornet's nose so they had to have new ones made so the other thing about the super horn is it's 33% bigger than the legacy hornet which is good in that it holds more gas so you can do not a longer show but a more powerful show you can use afterburner more you can you know have tighter turns go faster higher obviously not supersonic they also designed a mission computer for the blue angels that allows them to hit their targets so that when they do those crossing maneuvers they know whether they're behind or ahead and allows them to hit their numbers better than if they were just doing it the old way which is basically time distance or uh you know eyeballing it so now the hud helps them solve that and they're real happy with that i saw the new show recently it's as good as the show has ever been the airplanes are bigger which gives you a lot of sort of blue as they fly by the show is definitely louder the super hornet engine is more powerful than the lakes the hornet and you can hear it so as we get back to normal part of that is air shows are back so look for the blue angels air show near you this summer you won't be disappointed all right


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