Blue Angels in formation

Who are the Blue Angels?

Blue Angels in formation

Britain's elite aerobatics display team, the Red Arrows, is not alone in its mastery of flight demonstrations and its ability to wow crowds at air shows worldwide.

In fact, many world militaries can boast aerobatic display teams, including France's Patrouille de France and Italy's Frecce Tricolori.

The Blue Angels are the United States Navy's version of our Red Arrows and are the second-oldest display team on the planet.

But just who are they, what do they look like and how do they compare to their Royal Air Force counterparts in the sky? Here's all you need to know.

A KC-135 Stratotanker with the 756th Air Refueling Squadron, Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility, Md., refuels a F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter assigned to the US Navy flight demonstration squadron the Blue Angels (Picture: Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock /DVIDS).

Who are they?

The Blue Angels perform aerial displays across the United States and typically clock up more than 60 events annually.

Established in 1946, the 'Blues' have performed the same techniques for more than 75 years and are seen by about 11 million spectators annually. 

On their official website, the Blue Angels say: "In 1946, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Chester Nimitz, had a vision to create a flight exhibition team in order to raise the public's interest in naval aviation and boost Navy morale."

Where did the Blue Angels get their name?

The origin of their name – the Blue Angels – was down to chance.

In their inaugural year, ahead of their first air displays, a founding pilot borrowed it from a New York-based nightclub with the same name.

Mission statement

The modern Blue Angels team has a mission statement detailing its aims, eight decades on from its formation.

It says: "The mission of the Blue Angels is to showcase the teamwork and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps through flight demonstrations and community outreach while inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country."

What aircraft do the Blue Angels use?

Blue Angels' pilots fly F/A-18 E (Super) Hornets.

The aircraft has a top speed of 1,190mph and can operate at a maximum ceiling of at least 50,000ft.

Alongside Super Hornets, the team uses support aircraft, including the 'Fat Albert' Super Hercules.

F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters assigned to the U.S. Navy flight demonstration squadron the Blue Angels pull into formation after being refueled from a KC-135 Stratotanker with the 756th Air Refueling Squadron

Who are the team's pilots?

The Blue Angels have 17 military officers who have volunteered to spend two years with the team. Upon completion of their tour, the pilots return to the fleet and continue their military careers.

The team is led by the "Boss" – the Blue Angels Commanding Officer. He is selected by the US Navy's Chief of Naval Air Training and must have commanded a tactical jet squadron in the US Navy.

The Blue Angels describe their pilots as "well-rounded representatives of their fleet counterparts", adding that: "Career-oriented Navy and Marine Corps jet pilots with an aircraft carrier qualification and a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet flight-hours are eligible for positions".

You can even meet the pilots

Anybody interested in seeing the Blue Angels train can turn up to their base at the National Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida, on Wednesdays.

The team members even make themselves available for fan meet and greet sessions, staying to sign autographs in the museum once they finish rehearsing.