If you’re the sort of inquisitive or just plain nosy Avgeek who regularly checks the US Department of Defense website for contract information, you may have missed a barely-there notification listed on 13 August 2018. The contract to which I refer was right there, in between contracts awarded to Boeing for some CFM56-7B27AE engines and some oxygen system components (both for P-8A Poseidons). The Boeing contract listed between the two for P-8 work provides a shade over $17 million ($17,002,107 to be exact) for what amounts to nine F/A-18E and two F/A-18F Super Hornets for the Blue Angels. The concept of the Blues flying Echoes and Foxtrots is not exactly news, but the contract actually being funded is news. Great news for fans of the Blue Angels.
So we finally have a target date for the Blues’ transition to the F/A-18E/F. By the end of 2021 the team is expected to receive their full complement of 11 Super Hornets. That effectively means that the 2022 show season will likely be the first for the team in the new jets. The transition will be the 10th time the team has changed aircraft over their history. Modifications to the Blue Angels’ Super Hornets will be made at Boeing in St. Louis and likely be similar to those made to the current Hornet aircraft, including the removal of the nose-mounted 20 millimeter M61A2 Vulcan rotary cannon, the addition of the show smoke system, a civilian Instrument Landing System (ILS), and the spring-loaded control column that assists the aviators with precise control. Of course somewhere along the way the Blues’ jets will probably receive a glossy new blue and gold paint job too…
Navy Hornet and Super Hornet mission availability has suffered over recent years, but the Strike Fighter community times are a-changing. The best of the available F/A-18A/B/C/D Hornets are being reassigned to Marine Corps squadrons. The Navy Strike Fighter community now flies the Super Hornet Echo and Foxtrot exclusively with the last legacy Hornet deployment now concluded. Additional airframes are going to be headed for service life extension, which all means that the Blues may just be flying something other/better than the oldest airframes in captivity when they strap into Super Hornets for the first time.
Here’s the statement about the contract from the Department of Defense website:
The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Missouri, is being awarded $17,002,107 for firm-fixed-price delivery order N0001918F2654 against a previously issued basic ordering agreement (N00019-16-G-0001). This order is for the retrofit documentation and kits to convert nine F/A-18E and two F/A-18F aircraft into a Blue Angel configuration in accordance with engineering change proposal 6480. Work will be performed in St. Louis, Missouri, and is expected to be completed in December 2021. Fiscal 2018 aircraft procurement (Navy) funds in the amount of $17,002,107 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity.