The Blue Blasters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 hosted a sundown service for the Charlie series F/A-18 last week. The Blasters were the last tactical squadron in the Navy flying the bird, most recently wrapping up a final deployment on USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the South China Sea in 2018.
“Today our VFA-34 family and the operational farewells an old friend,” said Cmdr. William Mathis, commanding officer of VFA-34. “Born more than 40 years ago, the Hornet entered operational service for the U.S. Navy in 1984 and for the next 35 years, she proudly served the nation from the flight deck of aircraft carriers in all the seas across the globe.”
Now the only guys left operating the F-18C model are aggressor units such as the Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 12 and the River Rattlers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 204.
Oh yeah, and the Blues, who are set to transition to the Super Hornet in coming months.
And totally neglected air units such as the USMC guys, who will keep the F-18C around until 2030 (ish).
Flying Yesterday’s Hornet, Tomorrow!
ICYMI, check out these amazing images of the Canadian Forces 431 Air Demonstration Squadron (Snowbirds) along with the USAF’s Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angels. Some 151 years of friendship in one photo: three military jet teams from two countries sharing the skies over one common border. According to RCAF, it is the first time all three demonstration teams have flown together.
The oldest unit, the Pensacola-based Blues, formed in 1946 with F6F-5 Hellcats, are seen in their F-18C/Ds. Now the last Navy unit flying the older version of the Hornet (although the Marines will continue on) the Blues are expected to upgrade to the F-18E/F next year. They recently rocked Biloxi last month. I watched them from a kayak off Deer Island and they were great as usual.
The second oldest unit, the Nellis-based Thunderbirds, was formed in 1953 and have been rocking F-16C/Ds since 1993.
The Snowbirds, formed in 1971 as an evolution of the RCAF’s special Golden Centennaires group, has always flown the Canadair CT-114 Tutor, a downright cute two-place lead-in trainer produced in the 1960s. To put that into perspective, at the time the Snowbirds were formed, the Blues were flying the smoky Vietnam-era F-4J Phantom while the Thunderbirds were using the F-4E.
Two FA-18 Jets are displayed in front of the Wall of Fire during the Marine Corps Community Services sponsored 2015 Air Show aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, Calif., Oct. 3, 2015. The air show showcases civilian performances and the aerial prowess of the armed forces and their appreciation of the civilian community’s support and dedication to the troops. (U.S. Marine Corps Combat Camera photo by Cpl. Trever A. Statz/Released)