How a Navy Super Hornet jet was blown off the USS Harry S. Truman

On Friday, “heavy weather” swept a state-of-the-art fighter jet off the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman and into the Mediterranean Sea. The Navy reported on Sunday in a press release. No one was aboard the F/A-18 Super Hornet jet, which can fly faster than the speed of sound or at speeds of up to 1,800 km/h.

The incident raises questions about what type of weather could possibly have knocked down a jet weighing more than 32,000 pounds.

A sailor was also injured “while conducting operations,” the Navy wrote. The turbulent weather occurred when the Truman made a “replenishment at sea‘ or resupply mission, the Navy said, which ‘was completed safely’.

A Navy spokesman did not immediately respond to questions about the conditions that may have led to the fighter being washed overboard. Although the Navy described the severe weather as “unexpected,” an analysis of available computer model forecasts from mid-last week shows there were many signs of storms.

The Navy did not disclose the exact location of the incident, but the Department of Defense did two days earlier tweeted that a Super Hornet had broken the sound barrier over the Ionian Sea, which borders Italy’s southeast coast and is part of the Mediterranean Sea.

Before the incident, Italy was engulfed in a brutal, long-lasting heatwave that broke many records. Rome and Florence experienced their hottest June days on record. The heat was also linked to an ice avalanche in the Italian Alps that killed 11 hikers on July 3.

But Thursday marked the end of the heatwave as a strong cold front swept across the country and the Ionian Sea from the north. Computer models simulated ocean waves building to eight feet.

These models also showed an intense zone of low pressure and cold air at high altitudes sweeping across the ocean, in sharp contrast to unusually warm sea surface temperatures. Sea surface temperatures were up to 7.2 degrees (4 degrees Celsius) warmer than normal — meet the criteria for an ocean heatwaveaccording to the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change.

The contrast between temperatures at the sea surface and high in the air could have created an exceptionally unstable atmosphere conducive to thunderstorms.

Violent thunderstorms are known to trigger downward blasts of violent winds, or “microbursts,” that slam into the ground and spread outward. Microburst winds can exceed 100 miles per hour and cause damage comparable to tornadoes.

Microbursts were known to cause several aircraft accidents in the 1980s and 1990s, but the development of early warning systems has all but stopped such crashes.

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It’s possible that a microburst ejected the parked Super Hornet overboard.

The Navy wrote that the “details and cause of the incident are being investigated” but that the aircraft carrier and its air squadron “remain fully operational”.

The Aviationist, a military aviation website, called the incident “at least bizarre”.

“Whereas planes can go overboard during routing flight operations at sea, they shouldn’t be blown off the deck by the weather,” the website said. “When rough seas or heavy weather are expected, aircraft and anything else that might possibly move, such as tractors, carts, etc., are chained when not in use to prevent them from falling off the flight deck.”

Although a 32,000-pound plane may seem heavy, the plane’s wings make it easier for the wind to lift it when unsecured or improperly secured. On smaller planes, winds as low as 60 miles per hour or so can throw them into the air.

“Most small aircraft are prepared to fly at around 50 to 60 knots, speeds far exceeded by many severe storms,” ​​he said an article at FlyingMag. “And since an airplane’s wings don’t know the difference between the wind generated by the power of its engine and the winds of a storm, it will literally take off unless it’s secured in some way.”

The Truman was stationed in the Mediterranean in December when Russian troops were massing near the Ukrainian border. It has remained there since the Russian invasion. The Super Hornet aircraft are part of the Strike Fighter Squadron that “defends the interests of the U.S., allies and partners” aboard the carrier. The Department of Defense tweeted.

Boeing calls the Super Hornet the “newest high-performing, affordable and available tactical aircraft in the US Navy roster.” The Super Hornet is the primary fighter jet featured in the blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick.

The US Naval Institute reported that the Navy is examining how the overboard plane can be recovered. Super Hornets cost about $50 million per aircraft to build. Boeing Was awarded a $4 billion contract in 2019 to build 78 Super Hornets.

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