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Fighter Jet Blown Off Carrier Deck in Unexpected Heavy Weather

An F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet fell into the waters of the Mediterranean from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman on Friday, the Navy announced in a statement released Sunday.

The Super Hornet, which was assigned to Carrier Air Wing 1, was blown overboard “due to unexpected heavy weather” as the ship was conducting an at-sea resupply, the statement added. Navy planes have been known to crash into the water during takeoff or landing; losing a plane to rough seas is unusual.

Typically, there is a procedure to tie down aircraft to the deck with chains during heavy weather. And the carrier has a number of aerographer’s mates — sailors trained in analyzing and predicting weather conditions — stationed aboard the ship.

The Navy said the “details and the cause of the incident are under investigation.”

One of the last known incidents of a plane being blown off a flight deck happened in 1995, but it was not due to rough seas. In April of that year, an F-14 Tomcat fighter aboard the USS Independence blew another Tomcat into the water with its jet engine exhaust.

A spokesman for the sea service said that the Navy is weighing whether to salvage the Super Hornet from the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, though it certainly possesses the capability.

In March, the Navy recovered from 12,000 feet of water an F-35C Lightning II fighter that crashed into the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in January, before sliding off and sinking into the South China Sea. The Mediterranean Sea has an average depth of 4,900 feet.

Friday’s incident did not appear to cause any injuries, though the Navy did say one sailor received minor injuries while “conducting operations during the unexpected heavy weather.” They are in stable condition and expected to fully recover.

The Navy stressed that the Truman “and embarked aircraft remain full [sic] mission capable” despite the loss of an aircraft.

— Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

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