Tag Archives: US Marine Corps

U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18C crashes at NAS Fallon, Nevada. The last of a series of Hornet incidents

An F/A-18C operating over Naval Air Station Fallon Range training complex crashed into the desert on Sept. 1 at around 3.15pm local time.

The jet, belonging to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar) also known as “Death Rattlers”, was flying a training sortie when it went down for reasons that will be investigated.

Fortunately, the pilot managed to eject safely from the stricken jet; after a short stay in the Banner Churchill Community Hospital in Fallon the was released without injuries.

The incident comes few months after a U.S. Navy F/A-18D Hornet crashed into Mayfair Mews Apartments off of Fleming Drive, Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA, destroying five buildings.

On Apr. 6, at around 12.15 local time, a VFA-106 Hornet based at NAS Oceana went down for a dual engine failure. While no one was killed in the accident, several people were treated at local hospitals for injuries, including both pilots, a student pilot and an instructor, which successfully ejected at low altitude.

The investigation found that the Hornet crashed for a dual, unrelated engine failure, an occurrence tha is extraordinary unusual. The right engine stalled after it ingested a flammable liquid whereas the the left engine’s afterburner did not ignite for reasons that could not be determined because of the extensive damage to the plane.

On Dec. 8, 2008, a USMC F/A-18D (BuNo 164017) lost the only working engine (the other one had been shut down following a oil caution light shortly after departure from USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier) because of a fuel flow system problem that had not been fixed since it was identified. As a consequence of the loss of both engines (as well as a series of contributing factors, including errors by the pilot and Marine Corps personnel on the ground, who were later disciplined or relieved), the Marines Hornet, belonging to the VMFAT-101, crashed into a residential area of San Diego while attempting an emergency landing at MCAS Miramar, causing the death of four people.

Written with David Cenciotti

Image credit: U.S. Navy

Osprey tilt rotor aircraft crash has raised new safety concerns. But it might have been caused by human factor.

Recently, U.S. Department of Defense officials have had to organise a director level meeting with the Japanese Ministry of Defence and department of Foreign Affairs, to provide an update with regards to the MV-22 and CV-22 Osprey aircraft issues.

Pentagon press secretary George Little spoke to reporters and described the meeting as “An effort to address concerns about the aircraft by the governor of Okinawa” as the Department of Defence plans to base the MV-22, the Marine Corp version of the aircraft, to the Asia Pacific region.

Little also said “The Department of Defence takes the inquiries made by the Japanese government seriously and provided relevant information to the extent currently possible.”

“The Osprey is a highly-capable aircraft with an excellent operational safety record, which includes more than five years of worldwide deployments and 140,000 flight hours” Little said.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

This came in light of another incident that involved a CV-22 Osprey that crashed on Eglin range in Florida on Jun. 13 2012 that has fueled once again concerns about the safety of the tilt rotor that, in spite of the Air Force and Marine Corps claims, has been much debated in the recent past.

However, the last episode could have had in the human factor its “root cause”. Indeed, AOL Defense’s Richard Whittle reported that the pilot in command of the Osprey that has recently crashed in Florida, was also the co-pilot of an AFSOC tilt rotor aircraft that crashed in Afghanistan on Apr. 8, 2010.

It’s not been disclosed whether the pilot Maj. Brian Luce or co-pilot Capt. Brett Cassidy were at the controls of the Osprey when it went down last June during a training exercise. All onboard suffered undisclosed injuries but were released from hospital a couple of days later.

The CV-22 was flying in helicopter mode along with another Osprey. Among the possible causes of the crash there is the possibility that it went into the rotor wash of the other tilt rotor aircraft: a powerful turbulence that can cause an unrecoverable “roll off”. Osprey crew members are warned to keep a safe distance to prevent this dangerous situation.

“The results of the Accident Investigation Board will guide our decisions, if there’s some misbehaviour on the part of the crew or if they performed in a way that was unsatisfactory, it’s too early to say whether they will or won’t face any disciplinary action” said 1st Special Operations Wing’s commander Col. James Slife in an interview with AOL Defense.

With an investigation still in progress, it’s too early to determine what will happen to Luce and Cassidy with regards to a disciplinary hearing or whether they will face penalties for the crash. However, in the meanwhile, Slice has relieved Lt. Col. Matthew Glover of command at the 8th Special Operations Squadrons since “philosophically” all the military services hold commanders responsible for what happens in the units, he said to AOL Defense.

The accident that Luce had been in previously in Afghanistan took place during a night raid against insurgents, where the Osprey had a “Hard Landing” and had caught its nose in a ditch when the nose wheel collapsed and flipped the Osprey onto its back killing 4 of the 19 occupants.

The crash investigators in that occasion found several contributing factors to the crash but none that could be singled out as the “root cause”. Among them: all from the crew being distracted as they pressed to make their landing zone, a 17 kts tailwind and a possible loss of engine power (although this was overruled by the commander of AFSOC, citing engineering studies that detected no evidence of power loss).

Noteworthy, about two months ago, a U.S. Marine Corps tilt rotor aircraft crashed in Morocco during African Lion joint exercise with two marines killed and two other severely injured in the crash.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

Curious photo: This is not a Hollywood film set but the U.S. Marine Corps F-18 Hornet simulator

The following picture shows an F/A-18C Hornet Tactical Operational Flight Trainer (TOFT) that the U.S. Marine Corps have recently relocated to MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Iwakuni, Japan.

The TOFT is used to support the entire strike-fighter pilot’s training including radar intercept, imagery and warning system operation; weapons delivery; HARM (high-speed, anti-radiation missile) system operation; and electronic attack.

Previously located at Naval Air Station Atsugi, Japan, the TOFT hhas received various upgrades at Iwakuni: among them a sensor video-recording system that provides communication access and networking capability to interconnect it with other simulators, making air-to-air and air-to-ground tactical mission training involving other similar systems possible.

Image credit: U.S. Navy

Bring on some bandits! Combat pilots to fight against computer generated aggressors. During actual training flights.

Even if WVR (Within Visual Range) contests made famous by Top Gun movie, are still the most exciting (and disputed….) part of a combat pilot’s training, future wars’ most likely scenarios are those played on the long distance.

BVR (Beyond Visual Range) set ups (1 vs 2, 2vs 2, 2 vs 4, and so on) is still what pilots have to be proficient at, if they want to survive super-maneuverable stealth fighters, outnumbering friendly planes. Indeed, U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps routinely fly against “Aggressors” or “Adversaries” (this one in the naval slang), whose aim is to simulate enemy tactics as those used by the Sukhoi Su-30s in combat and play the “Red Force” during large Red Flag exercises.

However, there are not enough opponents to give pilots the opportunity to improve their ability to employ their weapons systems against multiple bandits and maximize the training return. That’s why, USAF and Lockheed Martin have developed a new training system, dubbed Live Virtual Constructive (LVC) training technology, that is going to revolutionize combat pilots training: the LVC generates adversaries on the fighter’s sensors just like real enemy fighters that behave exactly how the real enemies would.

Hence, when a Wing wants to train four pilots, it would need “only” four planes since no additional aircraft is required: in accordance with the training purposes, they will have the opportunity to fight against eight to twelve adversaries, that would be controlled by instructors who can manage their tactics or virtually fly them from one of the cockpits in a Networked Training Center. Like the one at Luke AFB, where the new mission control system for F-16 LVC training was installed.

Obviously, such virtual, aggressors will have to be kept out of visual range.

The LVC would help greatly the F-22 Raptor units who have difficult time finding high performance aggressors to fly against, as well as F-35 squadrons, that are going to face similar problems in the near future.

Richard Clements has contributed to this article.

F-16 Flying Over Arizona

Image credit: Torch Magazine/Flickr