Military Aviation

New Sequestration could cut Blue Angels’ 2020 season

The cuts would go well beyond the Blue Angels, forcing the Marine Corps to make structural changes

As reported by Defense News, if the U.S. Defense Department gets hit with sequestration again in 2020, the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, won’t be hitting the air show circuit, according to a U.S. Navy document submitted to Congress last week.

Program Objective Memorandum-20 (POM-20), a paper submitted to Congress by Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, in fact puts the Blue Angels’ 2020 tour in the crosshairs if Congress can’t come to a deal that avoids an across-the-board cut to the Defense Department’s budget by mid-January 2020.

The slide, which shows the potential impact of a “mechanical sequestration” on regions throughout the country, shows 21 shows being canceled, an estimate based on the 2019 schedule.

U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) Commandant Gen. Robert Neller made two references to the Blue Angels’ season in recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s readiness subcommittee. The cuts, Neller said, would go well beyond the Blue Angels, forcing the Marine Corps to make structural changes.

“If we were forced back to a sequestration level, it would be more than just the Blue Angels not doing air shows,” Neller said. “It would be units getting ready to deploy later, it would cause us to look at our force structure, have to make ourselves a smaller force.”

All the services have been tasked by the Office of the Secretary of Defense to come up with a 2020 budget that accounts for sequestration in addition to the regular 2020 budget.

Congress has until Jan. 15, 2020, to come up with a deal that forestalls sequestration, said Todd Harrison, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The U.S. Navy declined to directly comment on specific 2020 proposed budget cuts, according to a Navy spokesperson.

Noteworthy the Blue Angels are slated to upgrade from the F/A-18 Legacy Hornet to the F/A-18 Super Hornet soon.

As the actual jets, the new aircraft will be modified into a configuration specific to the Blue Angels role that requires the installation of a smoke generator and the removal of the fighter’s gun and missile launchers.

Still, the Rhino (as the Super Hornet is dubbed by its aircrews) is something more than a Legacy Hornet younger brother. In fact when it is strictly compared to the F/A-18A/B/C/D, the F/A-18E/F is 25 percent larger and the two General Electric F414-GE-400 engines have increased the aircraft thrust of 35 percent over the older model. Moreover an enhanced fuel capacity boosts the Super Hornet mission range.

Nevertheless all these improvements have made the “Super” heavier than the “Legacy” Hornet and because of its extra weight making of the Rhino the new aircraft of the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron could be a difficult task.

Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Andrea Perez / U.S. Navy

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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