US Navy pilot ejects in crash landing in Bahrain, officials say

Published August 12, 2017

A U.S. Navy F-18 Super Hornet was crash landed in Bahrain after flying off USS Nimitz, a deployed aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

Cmdr. Bill Urban, a spokesman for the Bahrain-based U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, said in a statement that the pilot ejected after landing and is "uninjured.”

Soon after takeoff, the F-18 suffered an engine problem and the pilot tried to divert to Sheikh Isa Air Base in Bahrain. However, the plane couldn’t make it and instead landed at the island’s commercial airport, Urban said.

“Due to the malfunction, the aircraft could not be stopped on the runway and the pilot ejected from the aircraft as it departed the runway,” he said.

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Urban said the crash is under investigation and that the Navy was helping to re-open the runway so the airport could resume normal operations.

This comes after a U.S. Navy fighter jet squadron was grounded aboard USS George HW Bush in July due to problems with the jets. 

And one day after the U.S. Marine Corps announced they were grounding their entire fleet of aircraft for a day following two deadly accidents in the last few weeks killing 19. 

In a previously unreported episode, for the first time in the three-year-old war against ISIS, a U.S. Navy fighter squadron was grounded for a week aboard the USS George H.W. Bush from July 12-19. As U.S.-backed Syrian forces were battling ISIS in Syria, the U.S. Navy was forced to ground all 10 F/A-18 fighter jets in VFA-37, after two pilots flying older model F-18C Hornets fell ill with decompression sickness, a long-standing problem with the jet’s cabin pressure.

The two pilots required treatment in a decompression-chamber-like machine.

The USS George H.W. Bush is the first aircraft carrier to deploy with a chamber aboard after a spike in what the Navy calls "physiological episodes," which many officials blame on flying old planes.

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Every deployed aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy now carries decompression chambers aboard.

A U.S. Navy spokesman confirmed the grounding to Fox News.

"Naval Aviation Leadership directed an operational pause for Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA-37) at the conclusion of the flight schedule July 12…the pause was lifted on 19 July,” said Cmdr. Jeanette Groeneveld.

Groeneveld said there was “no operational impact” on the aircraft carrier’s ability to support the ISIS fight in Syria, where the majority of strikes are now conducted. She noted that there are 34 other more advanced F-18 Super Hornets that remained operational among the three other strike fighter squadrons in the carrier’s air wing.

The Navy's Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John M. Richardson, recently decided to accelerate the phase-out of the early model F-18s beginning this month with one squadron and ending in 2019, according to Navy officials.

The Marine Corps exclusively flies the older model F-18A-D Hornets, which have long suffered from a lack of spare parts grounding jets and robbing young pilots of valuable training.  Currently, about 70 percent of Marine Corps F-18s can’t fly. About half the Navy’s Hornets are fully mission capable right now.

The F-18 was originally designed for 6,000 flight hours. Budget cuts and the delay of the Joint Strike Fighter forced the Marine Corps and Navy to continue flying them. A majority of the jets were extended to 10,000 flight hours.

Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.

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