US Navy Blue Angels First Appearance in New Super Hornets Will be at SUN ‘n FUN

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 2020’s 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 can overcome 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.

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The mission of the Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE) is to “Engage, Educate, and Accelerate the Next Generation of Aerospace Professionals. The SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo and dozens of other events year-round produce the majority of the revenue that goes into supporting this mission. By attending our events, you are helping us deliver top-quality, industry-leading STEM education and scholarship programs to thousands of young men and women each year. The opportunities that ACE provides give young people a competitive edge as they navigate their educational journey that can ultimately lead to a rewarding career in the world’s incredibly diverse and rapidly growing aerospace industry. You can help! Please click the links below to explore how you can share your knowledge and expertise as a volunteer in over 3500 available positions, become a patron of the Florida Air Museum, or donate to assist us financially. Regardless of how you assist, whether by attending our events, visiting the museum or donating financially, we sincerely appreciate your support!

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