By BILL WAGNER
NOV 30, 2021 AT 12:56 PM
Special Navy uniforms for Army-Navy game 2021
Special Navy football uniforms for the 2021 Army-Navy game to be played Dec. 11, 2021, at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.(JAMES QUANTZ JR)
Navy football announced Tuesday it will wear specialty uniforms honoring naval aviation during its annual showdown with archrival Army.
Under Armour designed the “Fly Navy” uniforms, which recognizes the fighter jets the service utilizes along with the aircraft carriers that launch them.
The 122nd Army-Navy game will be held at 3 p.m. Dec. 11 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and will be nationally televised by CBS.
Using one of the most famous Navy career paths as an inspiration, the 2021 uniform highlights classic American symbolism and the most utilized multi-role fighter jet in air carrier aviation — the F/A-18 Super Hornet.
Unmatched across the globe, America’s fleet of 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers can deploy up to 44 of these strike fighters at a time. With a massive arsenal of diverse firepower, the Super Hornet will remain the backbone of the carrier air wing well into the future.
The F/A-18 Super Hornet is also the jet flown by the Navy’s elite flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels.
Under Armour designer Nick Billiris worked with Greg Morgenthaler, Navy’s associate athletic director for equipment operations, to develop the 2021 uniforms. This marks the 14th consecutive season the Midshipmen will wear special uniforms for what has been billed as “America’s Game.”
It is a tradition that began in 2008 and Under Armour has partnered with the Naval Academy Athletic Association in the past to create uniforms that have paid homage to the Marine Corps, U.S. Navy fleet and Navy football’s two Heisman Trophy winners, among other themes.
One of the more popular designs was the “Don’t Tread on Me” uniforms that incorporated elements of the First Navy Jack used by the Continental Navy during the American Revolution. Those uniforms featured that famous phrase, 13 red and white stripes and a moving rattlesnake.
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Navy previously used naval aviation as a theme in 2017 when it wore uniforms that paid tribute to the Blue Angels. Last year, the Midshipmen wore specialty uniforms that highlighted the 175th anniversary of the Naval Academy.
Morgenthaler said Molly McManus, creative director for the Naval Academy Athletic Association, came up with the idea of highlighting naval aviation. McManus was driving out of the academy’s Gate 8 and noticed the roundel affixed to one of the old planes that are displayed along that road.
“Molly spotted the roundel and pitched the idea of doing something with it,” Morgenthaler said. “The whole uniform is based off the roundel and the red, white and blue color scheme.”
Two other factors help solidify naval aviation as the ideal theme for 2021. “Top Gun: Maverick,” a sequel to the popular 1986 movie starring Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis and Val Kilmer about Navy pilots, is being released next year.
Also, the Navy is in the process of updating its stable of Super Hornets. The Blue Angels are now flying the Super Hornet after previously performing in the legacy Hornet. Meanwhile, Boeing has begun delivering the new Block III Super Hornets to the Navy to replace the Block II models.
This year’s “Fly Navy” uniforms have numerous special features. Prominently displayed on the shoulder of the jersey and right side of the helmet is the U.S. military aircraft national insignia. Known as the “roundel,” it adorns aircraft piloted by all branches of the military.
Meanwhile, the left side of the helmet is emblazoned with an F/A-18 Super Hornet, which is exclusively operated by naval aviators. The Super Hornet, along with the F-35C Lightning II, represents the U.S. Navy’s fleet of strike fighter aircraft.
On the back of the helmet are three wings that comprise the naval aviation career field: a single anchor for pilot, double anchor for flight officer and AC for aircrew.
Featured on the left upper chest is the Strike Fighter Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet patch. Based at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia, this wing encompasses over 16 operational fighter squadrons. Each squadron consists on average of 10 to 12 aircraft, 22 officers and 190 enlisted personnel.
The Strike Fighter Wing’s mission is to provide U.S. Atlantic Fleet commanders with combat-ready strike fighter squadrons that are fully trained, properly manned, well maintained and supported.
The 2021 Army-Navy helmet helmets were each hand-painted to depict an accurate representation of the F/A-18 Super Hornet and its steel plating. This monochrome color palette is accented by the red, white,and blue colors drawn from the United States military aircraft roundel.
Every detail of these custom helmets is color-matched to the uniform. Each helmet took an average production time of three hours for a total timeline that spanned nearly six months.
Morgenthaler commissioned artist Franny Drummond to produce the helmets. Drummond, whose company is called PaintZoo, also designed last year’s helmet that was a blue and white marble pattern.
“This is my favorite helmet of any one we’ve ever done, and that’s really saying something because we’ve had some good ones in the past,” Morgenthaler said. “The detail that goes into those helmets is remarkable. It’s really amazing what [Drummond] can do.”
Responsibilities of a naval aviator may include searching for underwater threats, delivering payloads of incredible firepower or critical manpower, and executing strategic aerial maneuvers anywhere from the stratosphere to just hundreds of feet above the sea.
Naval aviators fly some of the most innovative and high-tech aircraft in the world, providing vital attack, defense and logistic support to the fleet and controlling and maintaining all internal and external aircraft systems. Navy pilots and naval flight officers are important components in an exclusive, world-class group of service personnel.
On average, 300 Naval Academy graduates are selected each year to commence naval aviation training in order to become Navy pilots and flight officers. Initial training is conducted at Air Station Pensacola in Florida.
This year, three Navy senior football players received aviation as a service assignment, with slotbacks Chance Warren and Daniel Taylor being commissioned as Navy pilots and kicker Ben Fee as a naval flight officer.
“Based off the reception we have received so far, the Navy fan base loves these uniforms,” Morgenthaler said.
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Dec. 11, 3 p.m.
TV: Chs. 13, 9
Radio: 1430 AMBill WagnerCONTACT
Bill Wagner has worked for Capital Gazette Newspapers for 30 years. He served as beat writer for Navy athletics and general assignment sports reporter. He is also the sailing editor.