Capcom Took Me Down a Rabbit Hole of Aviation in Video Games – It Includes the Blue Angels!

Did you know that Fat Albert, the C-130 Hercules transport plane of the Blue Angels, was in an arcade shoot‘em up video game in 1990? I sure didn’t know that until now!

Blue Angels C-130, “Fat Albert”, refueling an F-14 between missions in Carrier Air Wing

Since my last blog about the collector’s edition watch from Avi-8 themed around Capcom’s 1942 video game, a game that I loved as a kid, I’ve pretty much gone down a rabbit hole into old retro shooters based on aviation. Now, I grew up playing games, but there’s so many I missed including titles in genres I love. As I did my research on 1942 and its sequels (1943, 1944, 19XX), having recently played them through the Capcom Arcade Stadium, I came across a couple of additional Capcom shoot’em ups (shmups, STGs) that drew a lot of inspiration from military aviation as well.

Aircraft Selection Screen from Carrier Air Wing (Including Blue Angels Livery of the F-18)

Today, I’m focusing on a game called Carrier Air Wing (also known as U.S. Navy in Japan) that’s also included in Capcom’s Arcade Stadium collection. As you can understand, I was immediately drawn to it thanks to the name and the F-14 which is one of the game’s key aircraft used for promoting the game.

Carrier Air Wing originally released in 1990 for arcades only. This is the main reason why I never played or heard of it as I wasn’t much of an arcade goer in my youth. Home consoles all the way! But thankfully Capcom rereleased it as part of its more recent Capcom Arcade Stadium collection, giving access to it on current generation consoles such as PlayStation 4 and 5, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One/Series S/X.

Carrier Air Wing is a side scrolling shoot ‘em up that puts you in the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat, F-18 Hornet, or A-6 Intruder. Your choice! You get to fly 10 missions in a typical arcade style shooting game where there are big guns and overpowered boss battles at the end of each mission. It’s great fun, and like many games of this type, it’s up to your imagination to put yourself in the cockpit of these aircraft since it’s a side-scrolling shooter.

Carrier Air Wing Gameplay

Carrier Air Wing is a game that can be completed within an hour, but needs a lot of time to master so you can achieve a higher score. This is the main draw to these types of games. However, going back to my intro, what ended up being the biggest surprise for me with this game is that the Blue Angels are represented in it! So, yes, going back to my intro, Fat Albert makes an appearance in the game and is used as a refueler in between a few of the missions. I kinda sorta geeked out when I saw it! Also, the F-18 on the selection screen is in a Blue Angels livery. I totally missed this at first as I immediately picked the Tomcat when starting the game. But yes, there you have it! It’s totally fun to have the Blue Angels featured in a 1990 arcade shoot’em up video game from Capcom! Thank you, Capcom!

Now for that rabbit hole…

When I was learning more about Carrier Air Wing, I discovered that it is the spiritual successor to yet another arcade game called UN Squadron. Soooo…now that I love Carrier Air Wing, I must pick up UN Squadron, right? RIGHT! Unfortunately, it’s not as easily available, so I had to check in to one of my favorite retro game shops and buy a used copy of UN Squadron on the SNES. Good thing I’m still equipped to play old retro games on retro consoles!

UN Squadron (SNES) playing on the Hyperkin SupaBoy

Now when it comes to UN Squadron (also known as Area 88 in Japan), it too is another fantastic shoot ’em up that released first on the arcades in Japan in 1989. The game didn’t release on the Super Nintendo Entertain System (SNES) until 1991 which is the version I’m playing today. UN Squadron has been a much greater challenge so far too as it features that old-school difficulty. The more I fly though, the better I get at understanding the game’s enemy patterns and my abilities. The game’s overall presentation of six different aircraft, including F-8A Crusader, F-20 Tigershark, F-14D Tomcat, A-10A Thunderbolt, YF-23 Stealth Ray, and F-200 Efreet, and its weapon selection makes it unique in it’s own way too. Plus, whether you succeed or fail, as you progress through each mission you’ll earn money by shooting down enemies that can be used to purchase these aircraft and weaponry.

UN Squadron also features 3 main characters to choose from which I’ve now found out are all based on characters from a Japanese Manga. Also, according to Wiki, the Manga “appeals to aviation fans for its realistic depictions of aircraft and aerial combat” and includes a ton of real life aircraft from Fighters, Cargo, Bombers, Trainers, Civilian, and Helicopters. Sooo…yes, I’m now going to check out the Manga as well! I told you, Capcom has taken me down a rabbit hole! Thankfully it’s been a ton of fun though!

UN Squadron Boss Battle (a B-2 Stealth Bomber)

To conclude, what started as an article a few months back on Capcom’s 1942 video game and a Limited Edition watch from Avi-8 has led to more discoveries from the past that provide great fun and represent our wonderful world of aviation. What else have I missed and what other “secrets” can be uncovered from playing old retro videos games? I’ll just have to find out! If you know of any, please share by tagging me on Twitter…X…you know, @SegaRacer.