Tag Archives: U.S. Navy

How two F/A-18s brought their pilots home after colliding mid-air during air combat training

The risky business of being an adversary pilot.

Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) is one of the most important parts in the training of modern fighter pilots. At the same time, an air combat maneuvering (ACM) session, where friendly and (simulated) enemy fighters fly against each other, can be one of the most dangerous training environment.

Although quite rarely, mid-air collisions do occur, sometimes with fatal results.

The evidence DACT can be quite dangerous is in the following photos, taken after a mid air occurred on Apr. 22, 1996 between two F/A-18As (BuNo. 162454 and BuNo. 162475) from VFC-12 Fighting Omars.

The two Hornets, along with another F/A-18, were playing the MiG-29 role during a Strike Fighter Advanced Readiness Program (SFARP) sortie. Flown by the Flight Lead LCDR Greg “Stubby” Stubbs and his two wingmen, LCDR Greg “G.I” Anderson and LCDR Cal Worthington, the three F/A-18s engaged two VF-41 F-14s that were escorting an EA-6B Prowler.

Almost immediately the two Tomcats scored two kills with simulated missile shots at eight miles out against LCDR Stubbs and against LCDR Anderson.

The three Hornets remained in formation together until the merge point (where friendly fighters meet enemy fighters) and following the rules of engagement the two “MiGs” killed by simulated shots, executed aileron rolls to give the students a visual indication of which Bandits were killed and which one they should attack.

It was in the middle of the second aileron roll that Stubbs and Anderson collided, as explained by LCDR Stubbs himself to Rick Llinares and Chuck Lloyd for their book Adversary: America’s Aggressor Fighter Squadrons.

The nose of the Hornet flown by Anderson ripped through Stubbs F/A-18’s left wing and clipped off half of the vertical tail, while Anderson Hornet’s nose cone along with his canopy and his drop tank were lost. One of his engines was damaged as well.

The “Knock it off” (the signal given by the pilots to stop a training air engagement) of the furball was called and someone said on the radio that a mid-air had occurred. LCDR Worthington called Stubbs asking him if he could control his F/A-18. Stubbs applied right stick, right rudder and started pulling the power back a little bit and the nose came up. He answered to Worthington “yeah, I have it.” In the meantime also Anderson called to say he was fine, even if the sound of the wind filled his radio communications.

F/A-18A 1

Both the damaged Hornets headed towards the coastline, with Stubbs assisted by Worthington, while the F-14s were trying to communicate with Anderson. Since the Tomcats weren’t able to contact LCDR Anderson because of a radio problem, Stubbs said to Worthington that he had to join up with Anderson since he was facing more serious problems: in fact Anderson had lost his probes during the collision and his airspeed and altitude indicators didn’t work.

Even though the Coast Guard station in Elizabeth City was the nearest airfield, it lacked an arresting cable system and so Stubbs and Anderson decided to go to Oceana. Not only did the aircraft configuration make a standard approach almost impossible, but Stubbs also discovered that his Hornet entered in dangerous left rolls if the speed descended below 200 knots. So the long runway and the arresting cable system available at NAS Oceana were the best option for them.


After consulting with a McDonnel Douglas representative Stubbs decided to land without lowering his remaining flap. Two more Hornets, flown by LCDR Bertran and Bowman, joined up with him while he was preparing to lower his landing gear.

The damaged Hornet touched the runway at 200 knots, a speed that exceeded both the arresting gear engagement speed limit (175 knots) and the speed limit beyond which the hook might be ripped off (182 knots).

Few moments later also Anderson came to landing: his F/A-18 had lost the whole canopy aft of the windscreen (hence the sound of the wind that filled his radio communications) and wires were flapping out of the nose, beating against the side of the jet, but he was able to safely land.

midair 2

After two months, both pilots returned to flight status. Among the lessons learned in the mishap there was the need to put more emphasis on how pilots have to come out from the merge during the pre-flight briefing.

Conversely this accident was a significant testament to the sturdiness of the F/A-18: in fact although both the fighters were written off, the two Hornets were able to bring back home their pilots safely even after sustaining huge damages shown in the photos above.

Image credit: U.S. Navy via aircraftresourcecenter.com

This Insane 360-degree video will bring you aboard a Blue Angels Hornet during an airshow

Can you believe they can fly that close? Impressive.

The following video was filmed aboard Blue Angel 4,  in the “slot” position,  at the back right hand corner of the Angels’ diamond formation.

It was shot using USA TODAY’s specialized camera, designed to capture video in 360 degree from inside the cockpit of one of the F/A-18 Hornet of the U.S. Navy demo team, during Blue Angels display at the Great Georgia Airshow last month.

360° tech is becoming the new trend in aviation videos.

In August, we published a 360-video from inside the Heritage Flight Museum’s P-51D Mustang while flying and F-22 Raptor in close formation. Previously, we showed a similar video, shot from inside the rear cockpit of an F-5F Tiger of the “Patrouille Suisse” display team during a flight over the Swiss Alps.

Stunning video will bring you aboard a NASWI MH-60S during sea, land and mountain SAR missions

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI) Search and Rescue (SAR) as you have never seen it before.

Tasked to be the first responder for the aircraft and personnel stationed at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington, and to support Washington State agencies in case of emergencies, medical evacuations and search and rescue activities, NAS Whidbey Island SAR  is a one of a kind rescue unit, equipped with the MH-60S “Knighthawk” helicopters.

The team, consisting of three helicopters, 10 pilots, 10 rescue aircrewmen and 3 SAR Medical Technicians (SMT’s) is “the premier in Navy Search and Rescue:” personnel of NASWI are highly trained in day and night both overwater and mountain rescue including helicopter rappel and hoist, and mountain landing.

For SAR missions, the unit typically maintains either a 15-minute or a 30-minute alert posture.

This video, provides an insight into what NASWI SAR does, bringing you aboard MH-60S during land, sea and mountain operations.

H/T David J. Ljung for the heads-up

Impressive previously unreleased footage shows how two F-14 Tomcats shot down two Gaddafi’s MiG-23s

Watch the full declassified footage of the second Gulf of Sidra Incident.

After two F-14As from VF-41 Black Aces shot down two Su-22 Fitters on Aug. 19, 1981, the Tomcat faced again LARAF (Libyan Arab Republic Air Force) fighters on Jan. 4, 1989, when two jets from VF-32 Swordsmen shot down a pair of MiG-23 Floggers.

In the following video you can see, for the very first time, the whole dogfight, including previously unreleased (at least not available on the Web) footage.

The air-to-air combat occurred during a freedom of navigation exercise conducted by Sixth Fleet off the Libyan coastline.

The two VF-32 F-14s, BuNo. 159610, call sign “Gypsy 207” flown by Swordsmen skipper Commander Joseph B. Connelly and by Commander Leo F. Enwright as Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) and BuNo. 159437, call sign “Gypsy 202″ crewed by Lieutenant Hermon C. Cook III and Lieutenant Commander Steven P. Collins as RIO, were flying Combat Air Patrol (CAP) from USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), when an E-2C detected the two MiGs taking off from Bumbah air base.

The Floggers, heading towards the U.S. Navy jets, were picked by the F-14s’ AN/AWG-9 radar at a distance of 72 miles.

As proved by the radio communications between the aircrews involved in the engagement, the VF-32 fighters performed avoidance maneuvers for five times to avoid confrontation, but the LARAF aircraft matched their turns every time.

Then at 6 minutes and 27 seconds in the footage, at a range of 12.9 miles you can hear Gypsy 207 calling for a “Fox One” shot, meaning that he has just fired a Sparrow which, probably because of a guidance problem, misssed the target. The F-14s and MiGs continued to move closer until, at 6 minutes and 37 seconds in the video, Gypsy 202 fired another Sparrow at a distance of about ten miles against the same Flogger, destroying it.

At 7 minutes and 21 seconds the clip shows that, with the remaining Flogger now in their eyeballs, Connelly and Enwright took advantage of their action to get back of the MiG-23 calling for a “Fox Two” shot  (referring to the launch of a Sidewinder) at 7 minutes and 36 seconds. Noteworthy at 7 minutes and 44 seconds the missile hit the second Flogger downing it.

The two Libyan pilots managed to eject at the last minute ending the engagement.

Here you find the full story of the aerial combat. Chunks of the footage were released by the DoD shortly after the incident.

Image credit: U.S. Navy

Two Russian TU-142 Bears fly close to USS Reagan that launches four (armed) Hornets in response

Interesting close encounter off the Korean peninsula.

On Oct. 27, USS Ronal Regan, sailing in international waters east of the Korean peninsula, had to scramble four F/A-18 Hornets after two Russian Navy Tu-142 Bear aircraft flew within a nautical mile of the U.S. Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

The four Navy Hornets escorted the Tu-142, an ASW (anti-submarine warfare) variant of the iconic Tu-95 Bear strategic bomber, away from the U.S. warship.

This is not the first time a Russian warplane buzzes a U.S. flattop: in 2008, USS Nimitz operating in the Pacific had to launch some Hornets to intercept and escort two Tu-95s approaching the carrier.

More recently, in April 2014, a Su-24 Fencer flew multiple passes at 500 feet above sea level, within 1,000 yards of the USS Donald Cook, the U.S. Navy destroyer operating in the Black Sea at that time: a behaviour that the ship commander considered “provocative and inconsistent with international agreements.”

On Mar. 3, 2015, Russian Su-30s and Su-24s aircraft from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet based in Crimea conducted attack runs on NATO warships operating in the Black Sea “to practice penetrating anti-air systems.”

Image credit: U.S. Navy