A Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet was blown overboard and off the Norfolk-based carrier USS Harry S. Truman flight deck on July 8, 2022, “due to unexpected heavy weather in the Mediterranean Sea,” according to a press release by the US Navy.

When the incident happened, the Navy said the carrier was “conducting a replenishment-at-sea,” where another unspecified ship was refueling it in the Mediterranean Sea. However, it was not specified exactly where it was, but previous reports said the ship was in the Ionian Sea. When the incident happened, they said that the refueling was “safely terminated through established procedures.”

The F/A-18 Super Hornet was assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 aboard the USS Harry S. Truman. The USS Truman was a Nimitz-class carrier part of the US Sixth Fleet. 

180918-N-EA818-0374 NORTH ATLANTIC (Sept. 18, 2018) An F/A-18 Super Hornet assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 launched from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in the North Atlantic, Sept. 18, 2018. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the US 6th Fleet area of operations, demonstrating a commitment to regional allies and partners, combat power, and the flexibility of US naval forces to operate wherever and whenever the nation requires. (DVIDS/U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley/Released)

All personnel aboard the Truman were accounted for except one sailor with minor injuries. He was conducting operations during the unexpectedly heavy weather. He was said to be in stable condition and expected to recover fully. However, the sailor’s injury was unrelated to the F/A-18 Super Hornet going overboard.

Public Affairs Officer for US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, Cmdr Richlyn Ivey, said no personnel was in the immediate vicinity when the Super Hornet was blown off the deck. There was also no one on board the plane. She also stated that the Navy was still reviewing its options on whether to recover the aircraft.

There was no mention of whether there will be a replacement fighter for the one that went overboard if the Super Hornet could not be recovered. Depending on the model and configuration, Super Hornets could cost around $30 million to $60 million. Still, the Sixth Fleet says the carrier and its embarked aircraft remain “full mission capable.”

The Navy is still investigating the incident, and no other details have been released. It remains unclear how the aircraft got blown overboard when fighters are usually secured on deck with chains. 

The Navy’s Aviation Mishaps

This incident with the F/A-18 Super Hornet is the most recent aviation-related disaster the Navy has encountered this summer. 

The Navy has had five military aviation mishaps within the last two months. This includes a fatal Navy F/A-18 crash in California that is still under investigation and the MV-22B Osprey crash that killed its five Marine crew.

Last month, the Navy decided to ‘pause’ flight operations to review safety protocols and to conduct training following a series of crashes involving aircraft in the Southern California branches and prevent further accidents. However, no mention of how long the ‘pause’ on flight operation would be.

The Navy has been facing these problems in addition to its ongoing firing of top naval commanders and officers, command breakdowns, and overall morale issues. 

Why Was USS Harry S. Truman in the Mediterranean?

The USS Truman was part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group. It was in the Mediterranean because it was deployed from Norfolk to the Sixth Fleet Area of Responsibility in Europe last December. Rear Adm. Curt Renshaw commands the strike group. 

The flagship, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), is commanded by Capt. Gavin Duff. The nine squadrons of CVW 1, to which the lost F/A-18 Super Hornet belongs, are supervised by Capt. Matthew Barr. 

Truman initially planned to move to the Middle East. However, there were orders for it to stay in the Mediterranean Sea region because of the rising tension with Russia before it launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

220617-N-DN159-1065 MEDITERRENEAN SEA (June 17, 2022) USNS Supply (T-AOE 6) transits alongside USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) during a replenishment-at-sea, June 17, 2022. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment in the US Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by the US Sixth Fleet to defend US, Allied, and Partner interests. (DVIDS/U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Crayton Agnew)

Since then, Truman has been operating in the Mediterranean, supporting NATO and enhancing air policing over Eastern Europe. It has also deployed some of its embarked aircraft to forward operating locations in the area. It has also made a couple of port calls, with the latest in Marseille, France, on June 18.

The carrier has also sailed in the Ionian and Adriatic seas. In addition, Truman’s Air Wing took part in “Neptune Strike 2022” in the Adriatic Sea. They also participated in three carrier exercises with the Italian ITS Cavour strike groups and French carrier Charles de Gaulle’s Task Force 473.

There have been reports this spring that Truman’s deployment would be extended. However, officials have not released any statement on when the carrier will return home. It is, however, expected that the carrier will remain in the Mediterranean until at least August.