The Blue Angels are celebrating their 75th season this year, and the US Navy’s storied Flight Demonstration Squadron is marking that milestone with the unveiling of new jets for the team – the F/A-18E Super Hornet. The Blues’ public debut performance in this incredible multi-role fighter will happen in Lakeland, FL at the 47th annual SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo, April 13-18, 2021. The move to the Super Hornet will be the first time the team has changed aircraft since it transitioned from the A-4F Skyhawk II to the F/A-18 Hornet 35 years ago in 1986.
“We are thrilled to return to the 2021 SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo, where we will have the opportunity to debut our new jet platform, the F/A-18 Super Hornet and logistics support aircraft, the C-130J Super Hercules”, said Cmdr. Brian Kesselring, commanding officer and flight leader of the Blue Angels. “We are humbled by the support and hospitality the Lakeland community provides us and we are excited to showcase the capabilities of Naval Aviation.”
The Super Hornet, while visually similar to the “legacy” Hornet, is essentially a new aircraft. It is approximately 20% larger, 7,000 lbs heavier empty weight, and 15,000 lbs heavier maximum weight than the original airframe. The Super Hornet can carry 33% more internal fuel, increasing mission range by 41% and endurance by 50% over its predecessor. A unique design characteristic of the Super Hornet is that it can be equipped with an aerial refueling system (ARS) or “buddy store” for the refueling of other aircraft, giving it another layer of versatility.
“We are honored to be the first airshow performance site for the Blue Angels to help launch this exciting new era of their 75-year history,” said SUN ‘n FUN CMO/Airshow Director Greg Gibson. “The Blues’ display of precision, excellence in flight and character on the ground is exactly the inspiration we want to bring to our fans.”
The annual SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo is returning in 2021 after being forced to cancel their 2020 event due to COVID-19. The event is the primary fundraiser for the Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE), the 22-acre STEM education complex located on the SUN ‘n FUN Expo Campus, and its absence was a major blow to the organization. Former Naval aviator and F/A-18 pilot John “Lites” Leenhouts, President / CEO of SUN ‘n FUN / ACE is ready to get the annual festival back in the air.
“Having the Blue Angels headline our return to business is a perfect parallel to SUN ‘n FUN’s journey,” said Leenhouts. “A team built and established with great leadership and high standards canovercome any adversity, stand the test of time, and innovate to remain relevant. Congratulations and welcome back to the Blues!”
The Blue Angels are scheduled to make their official debut performances on Saturday and Sunday, April 17th and 18th, with arrival and practice shows beginning two days prior. For more information on the 6-day event filled with daily airshows, forums, workshops, and over 400 exhibitors, please visit www.flysnf.org.