Yet another U.S. F/A-18 has just crashed in Japan. It’s the 9th Legacy Hornet lost in 6 months and the crash rate is alarming.

A U.S. Marine F-18 Hornet, from Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, Japan, takes off during Max Thunder 13-2 at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Oct. 28, 2013. U.S. Air Force Airmen, U.S. Air Force Airmen, U.S. Marines and Republic of Korea air forces kicked off Max Thunder 13-2 during the first go, or takeoff. This is the 11th Max Thunder exercise, which fosters bilateral aerial training between the Korea Air Power Team to include the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and the Republic of Korea air force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Armando A. Schwier-Morales/Released)

An F/A-18 Hornet stationed in Japan has crashed in the Yamaguchi prefecture. The pilot has ejected but his fate is unknown.

Reports are emerging that a U.S. F/A-18 Hornet has crashed earlier today in Japan. Rescue efforts to recover the pilot would be underway.

Although no further details are available at this time, the fact that the aircraft was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, seems to suggest the jet involved in the crash was a U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18C/D model.

If confirmed this would be the 9th major incident involving a “Legacy Hornet” (including the Canadian CF-18 lost on Nov. 28, 2016) in the last 6 months.

Although each crash has its own root causes and may depend on several contributing factor (including the human error), we can’t but observe, once again, that the rate of crashes involving legacy Hornets is alarming.

Two U.S. Marine Corps F-18 Hornets from MCAS Miramar crashed on Nov. 9 near San Diego. Another one on Oct. 25. A Swiss Air Force Hornet was lost on Aug. 29, whereas a Navy F/A-18C crashed on Aug. 2. On Jul. 27 USMC F/A-18 crashed so as the Blue Angels Hornet that crashed on Jun. 2.

This is how we commented the Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 crash:

“In the wake of the Hornet crashes from June through October, the U.S. Marine Corps temporarily grounded its non-deployed Hornets. Unfortunately, few days after the ban was lifted, two more F/A-18Cs were lost on Nov. 9.

Hornet crashes over the last year have depleted the number of available airplanes for training and operations. According to USNI News the service had 85 Hornets available for training, compared to a requirement for 171.

In order to face the critical shortage of operational fighters caused by both crashes and high operational tempos, the U.S: Marine Corps has launched a plan that will see Boeing upgrade 30 retired legacy Hornets (currently stored at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona) to a standard dubbed F/A-18C+.

With this upgrade, that will also embed new avionics, the service will be able to keep up with its operational tasks until the F-35 is able to take over.

Once upgraded to the C+ standard, these “gap fillers” should be more than enough to conduct combat operations in low-lethality scenarios like those that see the USMC at work these days.

Furthermore, once these “refreshed” Hornets are delivered to the squadrons, older airframes can be retired, improving flight safety.”

Once again: aircraft may crash for a variety of reasons, not always technical. Still, the rate of Legacy Hornet crashes in the last months seems to be unusual and, as such, concerning.


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. It’s hard to tell if this is a training/proficiency issue, mx, or wx related. However, the Marine mishap rate is “eyebrow raising.” There is talk of a fresh Super Hornet order, in part to accelerate the transfer of ex-USN F/A-18Cs to the USMC. The Navy only has four legacy Hornet squadrons left – it only makes sense to divest the remaining Charlies to the Marines. Also, the “critical shortage of operational fighters” is also due to both delays and overall cost increases in the F-35 program.

    • Claiming pilot/maintainer error is unconscionable! Ground the legacy Hornets and punish those actually responsible before we loose even more people.

      Hell they should be forced to buy Super Hornets if that ship has not already sailed.

    • Why? He’s only slightly more rabidly pro-American as you are rabidly pro-Russian. You two should get along like two birds of the same feather. You realise, you look very much like him in your stances?

    • Guess what? We fly a hell of alot more flight hours than the Russians do, and our aircraft have been in much more combat. Did you know that the Kuznetsov stopped flying combat missions? Yeah, that’s Russian naval aviation for you:

      From IHS Jane’s 360 dated 28 November:

      Russian carrier jets flying from Syria, not Kuznetsov

      “Many of the fast jets that were embarked on the Russia aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov have been flown to the main Russian air base in Syria, Airbus Defence and Space satellite imagery obtained by IHS Jane’s shows.

      The imagery shows eight Russian Federation Navy Su-33 and one MiG-29KR jets alongside various Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) aircraft at Humaymim Air Base in Latakia province on 20 November.”


      • Skip the other aircraft in the satellite photos, the Su-35’s parked on the apron and which are brand new top of the line Flankers. Hence the need to keep F-22 Raptors in the area on the US side.

      • Oh, I didn’t know this thread is about the Russians now.

        If the planes from the cruiser have been flown there, then I guess the arresting cable system has a serious malfunction and is probably being repaired right now. Or maybe the ship has to be brought back to Russia. If that’s the case, it will still have provided information about flaws that need to be corrected for future missions. Look how long it took for the F-35 to get where it is now. Though it’s a little bit different with the Kuznetsov. There hasn’t been any development during the entire Yeltsin decade and then some. Yeltsin practically ruined Russia and for that he was considered a friend in the west. The Russian people remember that time very well and that’s why they support Putin. Most say he’s the best leader they ever had. Some say he could be doing more for the economy, which is true. But there’s no dispute about foreign politics. Defending Russia’s interests has priority. That’s also why the west will not succeed with a “regime change” in Russia.

      • Could that be because they can take off with a full load of armament from an airfield but not the carrier due to a lack of catapult?
        Also, you mention a report from 11/28/16 as proof of no more combat missions from the carrier but the SU crashed on 12/3/16. That report also mentions 9 jets are stationed at the air base, but there were more than 9 jets in its air wing.

    • Yeah, I wonder how he’s going to shoehorn this into his usual “non-Americans are incapable of operating machines” twaddle. Maybe he’ll split the difference and yammer on about how this shows that the Pentagon needs another half trillion dollars. Either way, he’s an endless stream of entertainment.

      • When I read leroy’s posts there’s always this second-hand embarrassment. How he’s proud of a country that has produced so many failed states in the last 25 years escapes me. He’s also acting like he invented the F-35 by himself. But he always avoids discussions about the death, grief and suffering his beloved weapons cause.

        You know that fanboys like him always are very similar to religious fanatics in behavior? Not much reason to find there.

  2. The reason would be self explanatory if they just replaced the word “legacy” with “old worn out.” QED

  3. It’s crazy, 9 crashes in 6 months. Although as the article states there could be several different causes, it’s still incredible that all involve legacy Hornets. Hmmm…

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