Losses and Aviation Safety

Blue Angels demonstration team to replace Fat Albert with RAF C-130J

The C-130J would replace the current Fat Albert, a USMC KC-130T that was flown by the team before its fleet was grounded in 2017 after the July crash of a similar aircraft in rural Mississippi that killed 16 service members

The U.S. Navy has decided to replace the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) KC-130T assigned to the Blue Angels demonstration team with a C-130J from the Royal Air Force (RAF).

A single-source contract would be executed between the Naval Air Systems Command and the U.K. Ministry of Defense.

According Pensacola News Journal the plane would replace the current Fat Albert, a USMC KC-130T that was flown by the team before its fleet was grounded in 2017 after the July crash of a similar aircraft in rural Mississippi that killed 16 service members.

“The government requires a suitable replacement aircraft, which must be delivered in an expeditious manner, to avoid a gap in logistical support of the Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron,” the contract notice stated.

The contract notice also claimed that purchasing a C-130J cargo aircraft from any source other than the U.K. Ministry of Defense “would create an unacceptable increase in program cost and delay in fielding this critical capability.”

Lt. David Gardner, spokesman for the Blue Angels, did not immediately respond to request for comment about the notice since he needed to gather additional information from the Naval Air Systems Command before speaking about the contract and about what the change in aircraft could mean for the elite flight demonstration team.

The Blue Angels recently returned home to Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola from their winter training grounds at Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro in California.

The Blue Angels uses “Fat Albert”, for their logistics, carrying spare parts, equipment, and to carry support personnel between shows. Beginning in 1975, “Bert” was used for Jet Assisted Take Off (JATO) and short aerial demonstrations just prior to the main event at selected venues, but the JATO demonstration ended in 2009 due to dwindling supplies of rockets. “Fat Albert Airlines” flies with an all-Marine crew of three officers and five enlisted personnel. Following the death of Blue Angel 6 pilot Captain Jeff Kuss, USMC, Fat Albert had the honor of flying his remains back to NAS Pensacola, escorted by Kuss’ wingman in Blue Angel 5, before then carrying him home to Colorado for burial with full military honors.

Photo credit: Imjeffp (Own work) via Wikipedia and U.S. Navy

Gabriele Barison

Gabriele Barison is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Co-Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. He has flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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