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U.S. Navy aircraft crashes into Philippine Sea, pilots safe

By Sheetal Sukhija, Kuala Lumpur News
13 Nov 2018, 01:20 GMT+10

TOKYO, Japan - In what became the second warplane crash involving the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in less than a month, a fighter jet suffered a crash on Monday.

Revealing details of Monday's crash, the Navys Seventh Fleet said in a statement that the aircraft - "an F/A 18 Hornet had a mechanical problem during routine operations over the Philippine Sea in the Western Pacific."

According to the Navys Seventh Fleet, the fighter jet crashed in the Philippine Sea, south of the Japanese island of Okinawa.

It also confirmed that the mechanical issue forced the two crew aboard to eject and the pair were then "rescued from the water in good condition."

The pilots are currently being evaluated on board the USS Ronald Reagan.

Later, a spokesperson of Japan's coastguard confirmed that an aircraft was sent to check if there was "any debris or floating oil" as a result of the crash.

The crash occurred south of Okinawa, which hosts U.S. military bases and thousands of personnel.

The F/A 18 Hornet, which was part of Carrier Air Wing 5 onboard the USS Ronald Reagan, is one of the most widely used strike fighters in the Navy.

Known as a naval aviation workhorse, the Hornet is reportedly employed for reconnaissance, close air support and precision strikes and has grown increasingly popular in recent years.

Seventh Fleet horrors

Even though the U.S. Navy has stated that the cause of the crash is under investigation, Monday's incident caused concerns since it was the latest mishap for the Seventh Fleet.

The Hornet crash on Monday was not only the second crash in less than a month involving the Seventh Fleet - but also the second involving aircraft belonging to the USS Ronald Reagan.

In mid-October, a dozen sailors were injured when a MH-60 Seahawk helicopter crashed on the flight deck of the carrier, shortly after takeoff.

A twin-engine assault helicopter - the MH-60 Seahawk helicopter is used for submarine warfare, search and rescue and anti-ship warfare and was also assigned to the USS Ronald Reagan.

Monday's crash of the Hornet also came immediately after the USS Ronald Reagan ended a joint exercise with Japanand Canada.

The 'Keen Sword'exercise was held in waters around Japan and near Guam in the Pacific between October 29 to November 8.

The Seventh Fleet - which is the largest American fleet deployed overseas - has 140 aircraft, 50 ships and submarines, along with about 20,000 sailors.

In 2017, the Seventh Fleet witnessed two collisions between Navy destroyers and commercial ships, which led to the deaths of 17 sailors.

The first crash occurred in June last year, between the destroyer Fitzgerald and a container ship near Japan, leaving seven Navy sailors dead.

The second crash occurred two months later, between the destroyer John S. McCain, which collided with an oil tanker near Singapore.

It left ten sailors dead.

An investigation by Navy investigators blamed a series of crew and basic navigational errors, concluding that both the collisions were avoidable.

In the aftermath of the collisions, two of the Seventh Fleets commanders were forced out.

Following two warplane crashes in less than 30 days, the fleet continues to remain deployed in the Asia Pacific region.

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