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The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F/A-18 Hornet is a supersonic, all-weather carrier-capable multi-role fighter jet, designed to attack both ground and aerial targets. The F/A-18 was derived from the YF-17 in the 1970s for use by the United States Navy and Marine Corps. The Hornet was a replacement for the F-4 Phantom, and primarily used as a fleet interceptor and attack aircraft. It has been the aerial demonstration aircraft for the U.S. Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, since 1986, when they adopted the F-18 to replace the aging A-4 Skyhawk. The Blue Angels show season runs each year from March until November. They perform at military and civilian airfields, and often perform at major cities such as San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle during “Fleet Week” maritime festivals.
During the aerobatic demonstration, the Blue Angels operate six F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, split into the Diamond (Blue Angels 1 through 4) and the Lead and opposing Solos (Blue Angels 5 and 6). Most of the show alternates between maneuvers performed by the Diamond and those performed by the Solos. The Diamond, in tight formation and usually at lower speeds, performs maneuvers such as formation loops, barrel rolls and transitions from one formation to another. The Solos fly many of their maneuvers just under the speed of sound, showcasing the high performance capabilities of their individual Hornets through the execution of high-speed passes, slow passes, fast rolls, slow rolls and very tight turns.
The Museum’s F/A-18A Hornet was once flown by the Blue Angels. The aircraft arrived in February 2009 fresh from a new paint job, courtesy of Boeing and Leading Edge, an aircraft painting company in Victorville, California. Commander Greg McWherter, whose name is painted on the side of this aircraft, assumed command of the Blue Angels in November 2008. On loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation, the aircraft is on display in the Modern Jet & Space Age Gallery.