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Comparison of Flight Demonstration Teams; Blue Angels VS Thunderbirds

For ordinary folks, the one way to enjoy the military might of their country is through the various military shows held by the military and performed by their special units. What people like the most out of all the military shows are the Air Shows where the dedicated crew of air force along with their other members perform a show of the aerial prowess in a manner that depicts the might of that country.

Talking about air shows, how can we forget the flight demonstration teams. While every country has their one or two flight demonstration teams, the USA is famous for its own 2 flight demonstration teams known as the Blue Angles of the US Navy and the Thunderbirds of the USAF.

For our readers today, we have decided to give you a side by side comparison of flight demonstration teams; Blue Angels VS Thunderbirds.


Blue Angels:-

The main aircraft flown by the Blue Angels is the famed F/A-18 Hornet and there are pans that all of the Blue Angels fighter jets are to be changed to F/A-18E/F Super Hornets which is the new version of the hornet; a carrier-based jet fighter. The main design theme of the Blue Angles’ Hornets is their iconic paint job of Royal Blue color along with the yellow accents; a color theme that is hard to be missed. As for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, it is the evolved and highly upgraded version of the F/A-18 which is equipped with every necessary thing to perform any mission ranging from the air-to-air interdiction, bombing missions, and electronic warfare.

The manufacturing of the Super Hornet was started by the US Navy back in 1992 for replacing the aging fleet of the Hornets for a large, multirole , agile, fast, twin jet carrier-based fighter for flight escort and the fleet aerial defense force. The design of the F/A18E differs only a little as compared to the F/A-18F with the F variant being a two-seater one and the E variant being a single-seat one.

In order to further minimize the confusion between he ordinary F/A-18 Hornets and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, these Super Hornets have unofficially been given the name ‘Rhinos’.


The main jet fighters that are flown by the famed Thunderbirds flight demonstration team are the F-16 Fighting Falcons. The paint job is the classic depiction of the American flag with red, white and blue color which makes them hard to be missed by the onlooker.

The F-16 Falcon is the pride and jewel of the Lockheed Martin that has remained a dominant jet fighter for a long time. This is a single-engine fighter with multirole mission capabilities that is used extensively for not only the air superiority mission but also for the close aerial support missions. Seeing the effectiveness of this aircraft, USAF has passed the aircraft through a series of upgrades that have made it into a 4th generation fighter jet. These upgrades are mainly made in the aircraft’s overall design and its avionics deck.

While the primary operator of the F-16 Flacon is USAF, it has also been exported heavily to other world militaries. The aircraft has been in service of the USAF since 1978 and up to date, there are a nearly 1000 of these F-16 Fighting Flacons in the fleet of USAF. The reason it has been able to stay for this long in USAF’s service is because of its performance and cheapness to maintain despite managing the air superiority.


Blue Angles: Navy:-

A short period of time following the end of the World War II, Adm. Cherster W. Nimitz; the famed Chief of the Naval Operations ordered for the creation of the US Navy Flight Demonstration Team. The idea behind this was to maintain the interest and the investment of the public into naval aviation.

The very first US navy flight Demonstration team flew in June 1946 with the Lt. Cmdr. Roy “Butch” Voris being the team leader. This Navy Flight Exhibition Team is the US’s first-ever aerial demonstration team, while in the world it is the 2nd one. The very first aerial demonstration team was the Patrouille de France which was founded back in 1931.

As for the name Blue Angels, it came purely out of coincidence and has a humble beginning. The team was performing an Airshow held in Omaha, Nebraska and they were introduced by the Right Wing Pilot Lt. Maurice Wickendoll as the Blu Angels, who read this name in the “New Yorker Magazine”.

Back in 1946, at the start of the Blue Angels, they flew the F6F Hellcat and then it was replaced by the F8F Bearcat next year. After the F8F Bearcat, came F9F Panther/Cougar that flew for the team for 11 years. Following them came the F11F-1 Tiger which served another 11 years with the team and following it came F-4J Phantom II  and A-4F Skyhawk II. It was not until 1968 that the Blue Angels started using the F/A-18 Hornet as their workhorse. This aircraft is still in active service of Blue Angels but is slowly being changed to the better F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

Thunderbirds: United States Air Force (USAF):-

The USAF was created back in 1947 and after only 6 years of that in 1953, the very first flight demonstration team was also activated from the Arizona Luke Air Force Base. This was the 3600th Air Demonstration Unit which was given the unofficial name of Thunderbirds due to the heavy influence of the Native American culture in the region of Arizona. This very first flight unit had 7 officers along with 22 enlisted men.

The team leader was Major Dick Catledge who worked as the training squadron commander at the Luke AFB. Buck Pattillo and Twins Bill were both selected to fly the right and left-wing. As for the most difficult spot on the demonstration team which was between these two wingmen and on the backside of the leader, it was given to Capt. Bob Kanaga. The name of the spare pilot was Capt. Bob McCormick. The job of maintenance officer for the team was given to First Lieutenant Aubry Brown while the final officer was Captain Bill Brock whose job was that of a team narrator and an information officer.

The very first aircraft flown by the Thunderbirds was the F-84G Thunderjet and by the time in 1955, the F-84F Thunderstreak became the aircraft of Thunderbirds. The original flight demonstration lasted for about 15 minutes with there being no solo performances.

The very first F-16 Fighting Falcon in red, blue and white color paint job was given to thunderbirds back in 1982.

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