For the first time ever, the US Air Force Thunderbirds and US Navy Blue Angels debut an F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 Super Hornet flight formation known as the “Super Delta” during a joint training evolution, as the following video was taken on Mar. 2, 2021, during the team’s training over the Imperial Valley, shows at 12:08.
The combined formation includes the primary six jets from each team, with the six F/A-18E/F Super Hornets that now make up the Blue Angels Delta at its center, and two formations of three Thunderbird Block 52 F-16C/D Vipers on each wing.
The six Hornets formed a tight triangle and were flanked by three Fighting Falcons on each side.
The two squadrons have become more closely knit than ever before after much of their 2020 show season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What followed was a tour across the country, with many high-profile stops featuring both teams flying complex routes over hospitals and other care centers to salute the men and women who fight every single day on the front line of the still ongoing nightmare of public health calamity.
Even during those intricate flyovers, they never pulled off a unique combined formation like this.
“The teams created common terms that would allow the flight leaders to effectively communicate with each other and within their own formations,” she said in an email. Common verbal commands and cues were needed because the teams use different lexicons when conducting day-to-day flight operations, she explained.
Working together also sharpens the pilots’ flying skills prior to the start of the teams’ monthslong show seasons, Nelson added.