A navy F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter jet crashed in ocean near the Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, late Wednesday afternoon, killing two aviators.
The incident occurred around 4 p.m. EDT, when the two-seater jet suffered a “mishap” and crashed in the water. The two aviators ejected themselves out of the aircraft before the crash and the search and rescue team, which was deployed immediately, found them, local newspaper FL Keys News reported.
They were recovered by helicopter and taken to the Lower Keys Medical Center in Stock Island, Florida. Later in the day, the Navy released the following statement regarding the incident and news of the aviators’ deaths.
President Donald Trump also conveyed his deepest condolences on the occasion:
According to Cmdr. Dave Hecht, public affairs officer for Naval Air Force Atlantic, the Super Hornet’s crew, which was based at the Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, was “conducting a training flight” in the Key West.
The aircraft, F/A-18F Super Hornet, is the upgraded variant of the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, which dates back to the Persian Gulf War (August 1990 – February 1991). It was originally designed to serve the purpose of both a fighter and an attack aircraft — hence, the “F/A” in its name, Popular Mechanics reported.
The Navy ordered the single-seat F/A-18E Super Hornet and two-seat F version in 1992. Although the Super Hornet or “Rhino,” as it is nicknamed, shared many of its predecessor’s characteristics, it was also different in a number of ways.
It was heavier in maximum weight and 20 percent larger in body. It beat the older Hornet in range as it carried one-third more fuel. It also had a 25 percent larger wing area and two additional wing stations, hence yielding greater payload capacity.
After it was brought into the thick of action in 2001, the Super Hornet took out surface-to-air missile launchers in Iraq in 2002, participated in combat missions in Afghanistan and also have proved key in conducting strikes against the strongholds of the Islamic State group (ISIS), in the recent years.
Apart from countries like Australia, Canada and Kuwait ordering several Super Hornets, Trump also acknowledged the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of these aircrafts when he was running for office in 2016. He tweeted:
Despite its popularity, Super Hornets have not always proven to be safe. On 26 May 2016, two F/A-18Fs on a routine training mission, 27 miles off Cape Hatteras, 25 miles east of Oregon Inlet, collided with each other mid-air. The crew members, from Strike Fighter Squadron 211 at Oceana Naval Air Station of Virginia Beach, Virginia, survived after being rescued.
On April 6, 2011, a Navy F/A-18F from VFA-122 Tactical Demonstration team crashed on a private farmland just west of Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, halfway into performing a loaded roll — a practice routine — with too much speed and inaccurate angle-of-attack. Navy pilot Lt. Matthew Ira Lowe, 33, and weapon systems officer Lt. Nathan Hollingsworth Williams, 28, were killed in the incident.