US Naval Academy F-18 Hornet: The Ultimate Stadium Accessory

f 18 blue angels annapolis  US Naval Academy F-18 Hornet: The Ultimate Stadium Accessory(Image: Andrew Leyden, cc-nc-sa-2.0)

Only in America are college sports arenas larger than many professional venues elsewhere in the world. But even here, retired fighter jets mounted at stadium gates are rare. Fittingly, this McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F-18 Hornet stands outside the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, and could be described as the ultimate stadium accessory.

f 18 blue angels annapolis stadium  US Naval Academy F-18 Hornet: The Ultimate Stadium Accessory(Images: US Navy, public domain; Google Earth)

The former fleet aircraft, which ultimately served with the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron better known as the Blue Angels, is a striking fixture outside the stadium, which stands near the US Naval Academy.

f 18 blue angels  US Naval Academy F-18 Hornet: The Ultimate Stadium Accessory(Image: Jon Sullivan, public domain)

The Blue Angels have operated six F-18 Hornet multirole fighter aircraft since 1986, receiving updated models over the years. The modified combat jets are generally passed to the team when they come to the end of their carrier arrestment capability – meaning they can no longer serve on aircraft carriers due to the punnishing nature of catapult takeoffs and arrested landings. Learn more about the Blue Angels here.

“This is a Drill”: Crucial Carrier Aircraft That Do Not Fly

f 18 training airframe  “This is a Drill”: Crucial Carrier Aircraft That Do Not Fly(Image: U.S. Navy, public domain)

The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is one of the busiest and most dangerous places in the world, making effective training and damage control systems critical.  Tasked mainly with launching and recovering aircraft to project strength and support combat operations in distant corners of the globe, carrier crews must train constantly for emergencies involving damaged aircraft.  Since active fleet jets are precious assets, they do so with training airframes, like these grounded F-18 Hornets, whose flying days are over.

f 18 training airframe 3  “This is a Drill”: Crucial Carrier Aircraft That Do Not Fly(Image: U.S. Navy, public domain)

Tucked away in a corner of the hangar deck until required for training, these airframes likely represent earlier models of the F-18 that have since been retired, or jets damaged beyond economical repair in real aerial mishaps.  In the top image, crash and salvage personnel aboard Nimitz-class carrier USS Harry Truman recover an F-18 Hornet training airframe after a simulated crash landing while underway in the Atlantic Ocean.  A similar operation takes place aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower at Norfolk, Virginia in 2005 (above).

f 18 training airframe 4  “This is a Drill”: Crucial Carrier Aircraft That Do Not Fly(Image: U.S. Navy, public domain)

Finally, in another 2005 drill aboard USS Enterprise, a member of the Damage Control Training Team (DCTT), waves “class bravo fire” flags to warn fellow crew of a simulated F-18 fuel fire.  The event simulated a general quarters drill in the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier’s hangar bay.  In real life, a situation such as this could lead to multiple loss of life and destruction of expensive equipment, meaning crews must demonstrate constant proficiency to avert utter catastrophe.