The Navy on Aug. 13, 2018 awarded Boeing Co., the F/A-18’s manufacturer, a $17 million firm-fixed price contract to configure nine F/A-18E and two F/A-18F aircraft to the standard Blue Angels’ aircraft structure. The squadron, which typically maintains 11 aircraft, currently flies the F/A-18C/D models.
While an upgrade, the new aircraft would not house the common nose cannon system used for strike operations. Like the Air Force Thunderbirds, the demonstration team uses “clean jets,” aircraft without missiles or bombs.
However, the Blue Angels’ F/A-18s are “capable of being returned to combat duty aboard an aircraft carrier within 72 hours,” if necessary, according to the team’s fact sheet.
The Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornets fly in a tight diamond formation, maintaining 18-inch wing tip to canopy separation.
Boeing will configure the aircraft at its St. Louis facility, according to the contract announcement. The fiscal 2018 budget, once appropriated, will fund the work, the announcement said. The new jets are expected to be completed in December 2021.
The Blue Angels recently announced a new roster of officers for the 2019 show season.
The squadron selected three F/A-18 demonstration pilots, an events coordinator, flight surgeon, and supply officer to replace outgoing team members, the Navy said in August 2018.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.