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Eye of the Tigers: The Blue Angels Got the Most Out of Their Grumman Tigers

Flown By the Team for Ten Seasons, The Grumman F11F Made a Great Show Plane

Official US Navy photograph

When Grumman produced the film “The Navy’s Blue Angels” in cooperation with the US Navy precision flight demonstration team in 1966, the Blues were flying Grumman’s F11F-1 (later F-11A) Tiger jet fighter. The Tiger was not a long-serving frontline Navy jet though. Far from it. However, the Blue Angels flew them for ten show seasons- longer than any previous aircraft flown by the Blues. This film, uploaded to YouTube by sdasmarchives, gives us a look at the Blue Angels when they were flying their very first supersonic jet aircraft.

Official US Navy photograph

Changes were afoot for the Blue Angels in 1957. The team transitioned from the swept-wing Grumman F9F-8 Cougar (their jets for only a couple of seasons) to the Tiger that year. The Blues had previously been training during the winter season at Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro in California. Over their time flying Tigers the team spent their winter seasons at Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West in Florida. Not bad duty if you can get it!

Official US Navy photograph

Minimal modifications were required for the Blues to fly the F11F-1/F-11A. The shell chute fairings and chutes for the internally-mounted 20 millimeter cannons were removed. An external smoke oil line was added on the port side from the oil tank in the gun bay to the jet’s exhaust. The Blues flew the “short nose” F11F-1 for the 1957 and 1958 show seasons, after which they flew the later production “long nose” variant.

Official US Navy photograph

In this bonus silent color air-to-air footage, also uploaded by sdasmarchives, we see the Blue Angels flying their Tigers over the Gulf of Mexico and Key West. Watch for the Naval Reserve Lockheed P2V-5F Neptune from NAS Jacksonville that photobombs the shoot. More gorgeous footage of the Blues flying Tigers!

Official US Navy photograph

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Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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