Tag Archives: U.S. Navy

U.S. Navy Blue Angels to Get Super Hornets By The End of 2021

New, Larger Aircraft Will Change Display Routine, Add Range for Ferry Flights.

After several seasons of speculation, official U.S. Navy documents have revealed the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Team, The Blue Angels, will receive the larger, upgraded Boeing F/A-18E single seat and F/A-18F two-seat Super Hornet to replace their aging F/A-18C/D Hornets, by the end of 2021.

The news is exciting for several reasons. By the time the first full show season in the new Super Hornets (existing ones retrofitted into a Blue Angel aerial demonstration team configuration) arrives for the Blues , the team will have been in the existing version of the Hornet for 35 years. That’s a long time for a demonstration aircraft. Most current generation Blue Angel fans have never seen the team fly any other aircraft, so the upgrade to the Super Hornet adds an element of freshness and excitement to the team’s sensational display.

The legacy F/A-18C Hornets are beginning to show their age. (All images Tom Demerly/TheAviationist.com unless stated)

Prior to getting their current F/A-18 Hornets the Blue Angels flew the small, single-engine Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. While the Skyhawk had an impressive combat record with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marines during the Vietnam conflict, the aircraft was quieter, smaller and more difficult to see during demonstrations. It was, however, a good choice for the team during the energy crisis of the late 1970s since the Skyhawk used less fuel.

But the A-4 Skyhawk lacked the visual and audible impact of its predecessor, the larger, smoky, twin-engine McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom II flown by the team from 1969 until 1974. For a brief period both the Blue Angels and the USAF Thunderbirds flew the F-4 Phantom II, with the Thunderbirds operating the F-4E version. The Thunderbirds transitioned from their F-4E Phantom IIs in 1974 also in response to the energy crisis when they opted for the smaller T-38 Talon trainer. Today the Thunderbirds use the F-16 Fighting Falcon single engine aircraft in two different versions.

The new F/A-18E and F Super Hornets will replace current F/A-18Cs like this one.

The upcoming change to Super Hornets means the Blue Angels remain America’s only twin-engine jet demonstration team. And, with the new, larger Super Hornets and their over 4-foot wider wingspan than the previous Hornet, the visual impact of the new demonstration routine will surely be striking.

Size comparison of current F/A-18C Hornet and larger, upcoming F/A-18E Super Hornet. (Drawing: Courtesy Aviation/StackExchange public forum)

The Blues will take delivery of the Super Hornets in late 2021 in time to work-up for the following airshow season. The aircraft to be flown by the Blue Angels will be fleet aircraft modified for airshow demonstration with biodegradable colored smoke injectors, fuel flow modifications to facilitate extended inverted flight and the addition of 7-pounds of forward hydraulic force on the control stick when maintaining level flight to improve the handling of the aircraft in turbulent, close formation flying. The aircraft are expected to maintain the current blue and yellow paint scheme that contrasts well against afternoon skies when the Blues fly most of their flight demos.

Some aviation photographers suggest the Blue Angels are easier to photograph than their USAF counterparts, the Thunderbirds, because the larger Blue Angel F/A-18s with their darker paint schemes contrast better against late afternoon airshow lighting conditions allowing modern DSLR autofocus systems to acquire the aircraft more easily in flight.

The visual contrast between the USAF Thunderbirds and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels is striking. Notice that even in notorious flat light conditions the dark blue Blue Angels paint livery contrasts well with the sky background making observation and photography easy. (Photos: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist.com)

The Blue Angels will receive nine F/A-18E single seat and two F/A-18F two-seat aircraft for the team. The Department of Defense procurement order for the total of eleven aircraft indicates a program conversion cost for the aircraft to demonstration condition of $17,002,107.00 USD. Approximately 3 million spectators see the U.S. Navy Blue Angels perform during a typical airshow season of about 70 flight demonstrations at 30-35 separate locations around the U.S. and the world. That means if the Blue Angels use the new F/A-18E and F Super Hornets for the next 30 years potentially 90,000,000 viewers, many of them repeat fans, will see the Blues perform.

Flight Demonstration teams like the Blue Angels are critical recruiting and public affairs tools for the U.S. military. Many military aviators trace at least part of their career choice to inspiration from early exposure to one of the military demo teams. With the current pilot shortage in the U.S. military the demonstration team’s mission is more important than perhaps any phase in recent history.

Top image credit: U.S. Navy

U.S. Military Is On A Roll With Dramatic International Rescue Missions At Sea.

U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon Locates Missing Fishing Vessel in Search Off Sri Lanka. Dramatic Rescue Adds to List of Recent Humanitarian Successes by U.S. Aircraft.

A U.S. Navy Boeing P-8A Poseidon has located a missing civilian fishing boat and its six-man crew in the vast open ocean south of the island of Sri Lanka in the Luccadive Sea north of the Indian Ocean. The long-range multi-mission maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft was from Patrol Squadron 45 (VP-45) the “Pelicans” originally from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida and flying out of Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia.

The U.S. Navy P-8A joined the search at the request of the Sri Lankan Navy after the fishing vessel went missing on Sunday, July 8, 2018.

Photos released by the U.S. Navy taken from the P-8A Poseidon show the fishing vessel after it was located with no engine wake and what may be a series of improvised sails rigged on its bow, suggesting the vessel may have lost steerage and power possibly resulting in it drifting south into the open ocean.

Photos taken from the U.S. Navy P-8A show improvised sails rigged on the bow of the fishing vessel and no wake at the stern, suggesting it may have lost power. (Photo: US Navy)

The region is known as dangerous for sailors and aircraft due to severe weather, the threat of piracy and other hazards to navigation in the remote maritime environment. Part of the unsuccessful search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 that disappeared without a trace in March, 2014 was in this region.
A Sri Lankan Navy vessel is underway to the location of the lost fishing boat as directed by the U.S. Navy P-8A that located it hours after joining the three-day search.

Photo of one of the drifting crew members on the lost fishing boat taken from the U.S. Navy P-8A after the boat was located. (Photo: US Navy)

This successful search is the second victory for U.S. long range search and rescue efforts requested by a foreign nation following a similar incident on June 25, 2018 when a U.S. Air Force B-52H crew flying out of Andersen AFB, Guam and originally from Barksdale, Louisiana located a missing indigenous Polynesian canoe that was lost for six days near Guam in the Pacific. The crew of that B-52H were also able to direct rescue efforts to the location of the lost ocean canoe.

In an official U.S. Navy statement about the rescue operation, Navy Commander Mark E. Zematis, commanding officer of the 45th Patrol Squadron, said, “As we continue to explore the operational reach and agility of the P-8A Poseidon, the trust and relationships we build with our multi-national partners becomes more and more apparent in such a complex and broad Indo-Pacific region. The positive relationship between Sri Lanka and the United States is what allowed our aircrew and maintenance team to effectively launch and assist with the recovery of their countryman.”

Illustration of P-8A from Patrol Squadron 45 by Ugo Crisponi. (Image: AviationGraphics/Ugo Crisponi)

The Boeing P-8A Poseidon is a new long-range patrol, surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft that is based on the highly successful civilian Boeing 737-800ERX long range, twin-engine jet airliner. It first flew in April, 2009. The P-8A is the U.S. Navy’s replacement for the aging Lockheed P-3 Orion turboprop aircraft that performed the same mission. It is also in service with the Australian Air Force and the Indian Navy where it is known as the P-8I Neptune. England, Norway and New Zealand have also ordered versions of the highly successful P-8 Poseidon.

A new Boeing P-8A Poseidon long-range maritime surveillance aircraft. (Photo: Lance Riegle)

An interesting feature of the P-8A is its planned integration with the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton ultra-long range remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicle. This capability will enable the P-8 and MQ-4C to combine their surveillance areas significantly.

Check Out This Amazing F-14 Tomcat Carrier Landing Tutorial Video

This is pure Tomcat porn!

Using the very same words of the user who uploaded it to Youtube the one below is a “nostalgic video tutorial outlining US Naval Case 1 (VFR) Aircraft Carrier pattern and landing of the now retired F-14 Tomcat.” What makes it really cool is not only the fact that it features the mighty F-14 Tomcat, but also that the narration is word for word from official US Navy F-14 NATOPS flight manual.

The video (uploaded in 2012, 6 years after the type was retired from U.S. Navy service) includes a compilation of Pilot Landing Aid Television System (PLAT) video used by Landing Signal Officers (LSO) to monitor approaching aircraft position on the glideslope and centreline.

At min. 2:12 you can see an F-14 recoverying to the flight deck with the basket and part of the cable still plugged to the aircraft’s IFR (In Flight Refueling) probe in 2002, whereas at min. 2:35 a Tomcat catches the wire while still in the air with a subsequent touchdown on the nose wheel (dated 1999). These are just two examples of some interesting (or scary) approaches/landings you can see in the video!

Enjoy.

 

“Top Gun: Maverick”: Son of “Goose” Arrives, Kenny Loggins Possibly Redoing Theme Song

Hollywood Has Been Rife with Top Gun Rumors. Here Are the Most Recent Ones.

Three actors have been tipped by Hollywood insiders as top choices to play the son of LTJG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw in the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick” slated for release in July, 2019. Entertainment industry news outlet CinemaBlend.com writer Nick Evans, reported last night that, “The son of Goose is set to have a key role in the film and casting is underway for the part. The frontrunners are Nicholas Hoult, Glen Powell and Miles Teller.”

Actors Nicholas Hoult, Miles Teller and Glen Powell are tipped as favorites for the role of the son of “Goose” in Top Gun: Maverick”. (Photo:JohnShearer/Getty; Manny Crabel/WireImage; Santiago Felip/Getty)

As every Top Gun fan knows, “Goose” died in a tragic training accident in the original film when “Maverick” (Tom Cruise) flies his F-14 Tomcat through the wake vortex of “Iceman’s” Tomcat, flaming out both engines and being forced to eject. “Mav” gets out OK, but LTJG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw collides with the aircraft canopy as it is blown off the F-14 Tomcat during the ejection. Tragically, he does not survive.

Reporter Nick Evans went on to talk about the potential significance of the new character in “Top Gun: Maverick”:

“When we first heard about Goose’s son being in the sequel last year, it seemed that he might be named Wrigley and will immediately butt heads with his instructor Pete Mitchell at Top Gun class. This will potentially be an antagonistic relationship between teacher and student in the beginning, which makes sense considering Goose was killed while flying with Maverick.”

In other “Top Gun: Maverick” rumors flying fast and low around Hollywood and on the set at Naval Air Station North Island on Coronado Island, San Diego, entertainment reporter Ryan Scott of MovieWeb.com reported on June 6, 2018 that, “[Kenny] Loggins would return to help out with the movie’s soundtrack. It sounds like that’s going to happen, as he’s going to put a new twist on “Danger Zone” with a younger artist.”

Hollywood reports leak that Kenny Loggins may have a role in the new soundtrack for “Top Gun: Maverick” (Photo: via YouTube)

Musician Kenny Loggins told reporter Ryan Scott that, “I met Tom Cruise on Fallon and I asked him that question. He said ‘Of course we have to use Danger Zone.’ So, I’d probably do it maybe as a duet with a young act. I’d like to work with, well there’s young and then there’s young…we have some feelers out there. Some pretty cool rock acts. The rockers that I’m interested in are male.”

There have been no confirmations so far about the soundtrack from Paramount Pictures, the studio producing “Top Gun: Maverick”, or from Kenny Loggins’ agent, Michael Jensen of Jensen Communications.

As we reported previously on TheAviationist.com, the plot for “Top Gun: Maverick” will likely introduce dramatic conflict between the world of traditional manned-fighter aircraft like the F-14 Tomcats (made famous in the original film) and their more modern replacements and the emerging role of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) or “drones” like the U.S. Navy’s new X-47B experimental remotely piloted aircraft and the Navy’s giant MQ-4C Triton UAVs. Tin the real world, MQ-4C Tritons are to be deployed to Guam for surveillance missions in the region this summer, so the plot for “Top Gun: Maverick” has particular relevance. The first photos teased on social media from Tom Cruise show a Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, suggesting the Navy’s new F-35C Lightning II, the carrier-launched variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, may not have made it through auditions for the movie’s airplane cast.

Image credit: Paramount Pictures

U.S. Navy Inducts MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Into Service Ahead Of First Operational Deployment to Guam

NBVC Point Mugu’s first two Triton drones commence operations (with interesting tail markings).

On May 31, Unmanned Patrol Squadron One Nine (VUP-19) DET Point Mugu hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony, marking on track delivery of an Early Operational Capability (EOC) to the Fleet and completion of their new hangar at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) Point Mugu.

VUP-19, that will fly and maintain Triton to support overseas operations beginning in 2018, currently operates two MQ-4C Tritons: the first arrived at NBVC on Nov. 9, 2017 and the second arrived in April this year. The two UAVs are housed in a specially built hangar used by the maintenance detachment to accommodate the pair of 130.9-ft wingspan drones built by Northrop Grumman for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

Shorealone Films photographer Matt Hartman attended the ceremony at NBVC Point Mugu and took the photographs you can find in this post. Noteworthy, the two aircraft feature different tail markings: the first one #168460 sports a high-visibility emblem of VUP-19, whereas the second one #168461 sports a smaller, low-rez badge.

High-rez markings on the MQ-4C #168460

Low-rez markings on the MQ-4C #168461

The U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C “Triton” Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) is an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform that will complement the P-8A Poseidon within the Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force family of systems: for instance, testing has already proved the MQ-4C’s ability to pass FMV (Full Motion Video) to a Poseidon MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft). An advanced version than the first generation Global Hawk Block 10, the drone  it is believed to be a sort of Block 20 and Block 30 Global Hawk hybrid, carrying Navy payload including an AN/ZPY-3 multi-function active-sensor (MFAS) radar system, that gives the Triton the ability to cover more than 2.7 million square miles in a single mission that can last as long as 24 hours at a time, at altitudes higher than 10 miles, with an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles.

The U.S. Navy plans to procure 68 aircraft and 2 prototypes.

VUP-19 emblem on the new hangar at NBVC Point Mugu.

The unmanned aircraft of VUP-19 are expected to deploy to Guam later this year, with an early set of capabilities, including basic ESM (Electronic Support Measures) to pick up ships radar signals, for maritime Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance mission. A more significant SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) capability will be deployed to the fleet in 2021, when the Triton is expected to reach an IOC (Initial Operational Capability). By then, the U.S. Navy plans to add two additional MQ-4Cs to the Guam deployment that would allow a 24/7/365 orbit. With the IOC of the Triton, the service will retire the EP-3E ARIES II as the Navy’s signals-intelligence platform.

Interestingly, some of the MQ-4C test flights could be tracked online. Here’s an example dating back to October last year:

The U.S. Navy plans to operate five 24-hour orbits around the world. The UAVs will be controlled from two MOBs (Main Operating Bases): Naval Station Mayport, Florida, and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington. The aircraft will be launched (and recovered) from 5 bases: Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy; an unspecified location in the Middle East (Al Dhafra, UAE, where the U.S. Air Force RQ-4 are forward deployed?); Naval Air Station Guam; Naval Station Mayport; and Point Mugu.

Make sure you visit this link to have a look at the whole set of photographs taken by our friend Matt Hartman during the ribbon cutting ceremony at Point Mugu.