USNS Mendonca Transporting Recovered U.S. Navy F/A-18E Back To The U.S.

Mendonca F/A-18E
A view of an F/A-18E Super Horner being lowered onto Military Sealift Command's large medium speed roll-on, roll-off ship USNS Mendonca (T-AKR 303) in Sicily, Italy, Aug. 16. (Image credit: U.S. Navy)

The Mendonca large, medium speed roll-on, roll-off ship (LSMR) is bringing back to the U.S the F/A-18E Super Hornet that went overboard USS Truman.

The F/A-18E Super Hornet that blew overboard USS Truman aircraft carrier on Jul. 8, 2022, is being transported back to the U.S. aboard Military Sealift Command’s Bob Hope-class USNS Mendonca (T-AKR 303), a large, medium speed roll-on, roll-off ship (LSMR).

The aircraft fell into the Mediterranean Sea as the carrier was hit by “an unexpected brief period of intense winds and heavy rains” and was successfully recovered from a depth of approximately 9,500 feet on Aug. 3, 2022, by a team from Task Force (CTF) 68, Naval Sea Systems Command’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV), Harry S. Truman, Naval Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, and U.S. Sixth Fleet embarked on the multi-purpose construction vessel (MPV) Everest.

The recovered aircraft, Modex 205, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 211 (VFA-211), “Fighting Checkmates”, was delivered to Augusta port, in Sicily, Italy, where it was photographed by one of our readers: the images showed no surviving horizontal stabilizers and damage to the engine nozzles areas and the left tail’s rudder.

According to the USN Military Sealift Command, the civilian mariners who crew USNS Mendonca brought the F/A-18E Super Hornet aboard the LSMR vessel to be transported back to the U.S. from the Augusta Bay Port Facility on Aug 16, 2022.

“The Mendonca’s crew assisted with planning the lift, landing the aircraft from the salvage barge’s crane, and securing the F/A-18 on deck,” according to Capt. James Gill, USNS Mendonca’s Master. “The USNS Mendonca received the tasking due to our available cargo space and geographic location. We were the right piece at the right place at the right time.”

According to the U.S. Navy, the Mendonca has over 73,000 square feet of weather-deck space for cargo, and twin pedestal cranes which made the ship a perfect platform to transport the aircraft back to the U.S.

“The return of the F-18 came up as a lift of opportunity during our recent mission in support of Operation Resolute Castle,” according to Gill. “Our configuration and cargo capabilities allow us support many different types of cargo. Whether it is lift-on, lift-off, roll-on, roll-off, containerized or break-bulk cargo, we can do it all; from artillery, armor, vehicles of all sizes, containers, helicopters, and now tactical aircraft.”

According to the AIS data, the U.S. vessel made a port call at Rota, Spain, on Aug. 19, where it was also spotted:

The Mendonca is currently in the North Atlantic, heading west towards Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia.

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.