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San Diego, CA. – A collision that killed seven Marines in one of the Marine Corps’ deadliest aviation training accidents in years occurred over a sprawling desert range favored by the U.S. military because its craggy mountains and hot, dusty conditions are similar to Afghanistan’s harsh environment.
Officials were scrambling Thursday to determine what caused the AH-1W Cobra and UH-1 Huey to crash during a routine exercise Wednesday night when skies were clear and the weather was mild.
There were no survivors in the accident near the Chocolate Mountains along the California-Arizona border.
It was the fifth aviation mishap since March involving the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing headquartered at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego. Throughout the Navy and Marine Corp, there have only been two other aviation training accidents in the past five years involving seven or more deaths, according to the military’s Naval Safety Center.
“It’s an unfortunate consequence of the high tempo of operations,” said retired Marine Col. J.F. Joseph, an aviation safety consultant. “They’re out there working on the edge trying to exploit the maximum capabilities of the aircraft and their tactics. Just by the virtue of that, in becoming combat ready, these unfortunately are not uncommon occurrences.”
The Marine Corps and Navy, nonetheless, stand out in their efforts to mitigate that risk and make training as safe as possible, he said.
With 17,500 Marines and sailors, including personnel stationed at Camp Pendleton and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing conducts hundreds of aviation training exercises a year so troops can get as much experience as possible before they go to war.
The number of Marines killed in the latest crash shook the military community. Chaplains and counselors were called in to talk to troops. Six of the Marines killed were from Pendleton — the West Coast’s largest base — and one was from the base in Yuma.
Their identities will not be released until their families have all been notified.
Two of the Marines were aboard an AH-1W Cobra and the rest were in a UH-1 Huey utility helicopter. They were flying in a remote section of the 1.2 million-acre Yuma Training Range Complex as part of a two-week standard training called “Scorpion Fire” that involved a squadron of about 450 troops from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
The helicopters collided near dunes at the edge of the Yuma range about an hour before the range was to shut down for the evening. Ground troops were in the area, but they were not affected, said Gunnery Sgt. Dustin Dunk, a spokesman at the Yuma base, which is a 90-minute drive from the accident site.
Part of the exercise involved having helicopters low on fuel descend to ground troops that have set up a refueling outpost, Dunk said.
He did not know if that’s what the pilots were doing at the time of the crash.
“Our training is always evolving, safety is paramount, and being prepared is paramount,” he said. “It was a very standard exercise for what we do. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family members … Our investigation will look to see what went wrong and how to correct it.”
The AH-1W carries a pilot and gunner and is considered the Marine Corps’ main attack helicopter. The UH-1Y, which is replacing the aging version of the Huey utility helicopter first used during the Vietnam War, carries one or two pilots, a crew chief and other crew members, depending on the mission.
Hueys often are used to pick up and drop off ground crews, while Cobras hover by ready to fire if the Huey comes under attack.
In other crashes in the past year, a twin-engine, two-seat AH-1W Cobra helicopter went down in September during training in a remote area of Camp Pendleton, killing two Marine pilots and igniting a brush fire that burned about 120 acres at the base north of San Diego.
In August, two Marines were ejected from their F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet as it plunged toward the Pacific Ocean. The two Marines spent four hours in the dark, chilly ocean before they were rescued. Both suffered broken bones but survived.
In July, a decorated Marine from western New York was killed during a training exercise when his UH-1Y helicopter went down in a remote section of Camp Pendleton.
Another Hornet sustained at least $1 million damage when its engine caught fire on March 30 aboard the USS John C. Stennis during an exercise about 100 miles off the San Diego coast. Eight sailors, a Marine and two civilians were injured.
In one of the worst accidents in the past five years, an AH1-W flying in formation with three other Marine helicopters on a nighttime training mission from Camp Pendleton to San Clemente Island collided with a Coast Guard C-130 airplane in October 2009, killing two aboard the Marine helicopters and seven aboard the C-130.
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On January 11, 2012, excitement surrounds the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida as the Marine Corps welcomes the newest member to its fleet. The F-35B is a variation of the Joint Strike Figther. It is a tactical fixed-wing aircraft that will replace the aging jets of the Marine Corps. The Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 which is the F-35 training squadron of 2d Marine Aircraft Wing based at Eglin AFB is the first squadron to receive the F-35B. The aircraft will be used for pilot and technician training.
According to Maj. Gen. Jon M. Davis, commanding general of 2d MAW, “The Marine Corps has to be ready to fight across the spectrum of war; a force that is most ready when the nation is least ready. The F-35B gives us the capability to do just that.”
The F-35B has a short take-off and vertical landing capabilities. It will reduce maintenance cost while helping the marine ensure its tactical dominance needed to dissuade potential adversaries and protect the nation’s interest. The aircraft will replace the Marine Corps’ F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier and EA-6B Prowler.
Commanding Officer of VMFAT-501, Lt. Col. James B. Wellons added praise to the F-35B, “The STOVL capability of the F-35B will enable us to deploy with the Marine Air-Ground Task Force and ensure these fifth-generation capabilities are available when needed. Our mission is to conduct F-35B operations in coordination with our joint and coalition partners at Eglin Air Force Base in order to attain our annual pilot training requirement.”
The F-35B completed 250 vertical landings this year. It includes 72 vertical landings and shoirt takeoffs on the USS Wasp in October.
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San Francisco, CA — It was 1986 when a young Sammy Holmes first witnessed the Blue Angels soaring above Andrews Air Force Base in his native Maryland.
“It was a childhood dream of mine” to work with the Navy’s premier flight demonstration squad, he said. Holmes gets to wear the traditional blue-and-gold garb donned by members of the Blue Angels, but he realizes his job is one that Fleet Week air show attendees will likely overlook.
As part of maintenance control, Holmes, 33, directs and manages maintenance on the F/A-18 Hornet aircraft. In layman’s terms, he acts as the trainer in the corner, assuring that his fighter is in peak condition before answering the bell for the next round.
“The maintenance team has a very vital role,” said Holmes, who has spent five years in the Navy. “The public is usually not aware of the maintenance aspect of flying. However, everybody in our command, as well as our officers, they understand the vital role we play in making sure that they are able to fly their show, and they are very grateful for that.”
But despite accomplishing his boyhood dream, the future looked uncertain after Holmes graduated from high school.
“I was pretty unsure about what I wanted to do with myself,” he said. “I had a couple of dead-end jobs and finally landed myself a position working at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.”
After a six-year stint there, Holmes opted for a “change” and decided to continue his education in aviation.
“I felt that the Navy was the best career path for me to do that with,” he said. “I have been blessed in my Navy career in a very short time to make it to this level of perfection.”
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An AH-1W Cobra helicopter that went down during a training exercise at southern California’s Camp Pendleton killed the two Marines onboard and set off a fast-moving brush fire on the base on Monday.
The blaze burned 48.6 hectares and was 80 per cent contained on Monday evening, a base statement said.
The 1pm wreck involved a twin-engine, two-seat AH-1W Cobra attack helicopter belonging to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, a Marine Corps statement said. It crashed in the southeast corner of the base near the community of Fallbrook.
The fire grew quickly after the crash, spreading to 20ha three hours after the helicopter went down. It was moving near the base’s border with the town of De Luz, the Marine Corps statement said.
The Marines died at the scene. Their names won’t be released until their families have been notified, officials said.
Several accidents have happened in recent months involving Marine Corps training in Southern California, including a fatal accident in July.
In August, two Marines were ejected from their F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet as it plunged toward the Pacific Ocean. The two Marines spent four hours in the dark, chilly ocean before they were rescued. Both suffered broken bones and are undergoing rehabilitation at a San Diego hospital.
In July, a decorated Marine from western New York was killed during a training exercise when his UH-1Y helicopter went down in a remote section of Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego.
Another Hornet sustained at least $US1 million ($A980,200) damage when its engine caught fire on March 30 aboard the USS John C. Stennis during a training exercise about 161km off the San Diego coast. Eight sailors, a Marine and two civilians were injured.
The Navy has said debris in the engine is the suspected cause of that fire.
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The 451st Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron aerial port flight assisted the C-5 Galaxy’s loadmaster crew in successfully loading an F/A-18 Super Hornet into the Galaxy’s cargo bay on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
The Hornet experienced malfunctions which caused it to divert and land at Kandahar Airfield while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom last March. Upon landing, the aircraft experienced hot brakes and upon stopping, both brakes were engulfed in flames. The Kandahar, Fire and Rescue extinguished the fire, but the right fuselage was severely damaged.
Charles Miller, the F/A-18 deputy program manager, and a team of four Defense Department civilians have been preparing to recover the aircraft in order to bring it back to the U.S. to Fleet Readiness Center Southwest to perform the necessary repairs since July.
The preparation included coordinating with senior leadership at the Navy’s Commander of Naval Air Forces and the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command in order to obtain the required certification to transport the aircraft back on a C-5 to Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, Calif.
“Typically, an aircraft would be flown back to the states if the damage was minor,” said Miller. “But this F/A-18 sustained substantial damage which our engineering support team determined to be critical and unflyable.”
The C-5 aircrew was eager for the opportunity.
“We’re willing to help any of our sister services who need it,” said Air Force Maj. Steven Hertenstein, the pilot of the C-5 Galaxy who is deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. “Carrying cargo is what this aircraft was designed to do, and we’re glad to be a part this.”
Source: U.S. Air Force
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Defence Minister Stephen Smith has set a firm 2012 deadline on any decision to buy additional Boeing Super Hornet aircraft in the face of further delays in delivery of the new Joint Strike Fighter. Smith again vowed he would not allow any air combat capability gap to emerge between retirement of older F/A-18 Hornet aircraft and entry to service of the JSF.
Under current plans, Australia is looking to acquire up to 100 of the advanced Lockheed-Martin F-35 JSF at a cost around $16 billion. But so far Australia has committed to buy just 14, with the RAAF set to take delivery of the first two in the US for training in 2014-15.
The Defence Minister said the RAAF’s 71 classic Hornets were being upgraded and would remain in service until around 2020 when the JSF is expected to enter full service. Twenty of 24 new Super Hornets have now been delivered with the rest to arrive later this year. He then added that Australia prudently chose to buy the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) JSF variant rather than the more troubled carrier or short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variants.
Advice from the Defence Department indicated Australia could wait until 2013 to make a judgement about whether alternative arrangements were required to ensure there was no gap in capability, he said.
“I am not proposing to wait until the last minute. I am proposing to recommend to the government that we make that decision next year,” Smith said in answer to a question from independent MP Andrew Wilkie.
He said there was an obvious Plan B – more Super Hornets.
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Two Marines who were aboard an F/A-18 Hornet were plucked from the water, Thursday, after spending hours in the Pacific Ocean.
The F/A-18 Hornet crashed while flying with another jet that reported it missing around 10:15 p.m., Wednesday and noted debris in the water. The two men ejected safely from their crashing jet fighter. The F/A-18 aircraft was based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
The Navy and U.S. Coast Guard began an air and sea search that included dropping a flare to illuminate the area. Before dawn Thursday, the crew of the Coast Guard cutter Edisto heard the Marines yelling for help and blowing a rescue whistle about 35 miles off the coast and about 85 miles southwest of San Diego.
“They were just basically floating in the water,” Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Henry G. Dunphy said.
A helicopter lowered a rescue swimmer, who plucked the Marines from the water about 2:30 a.m., Dunphy said.It was unclear what survival gear the Marines might have had, and what conditions they faced in the water.
The men were in serious but stable condition at Naval Medical Center San Diego. Their names and details of their injuries were not immediately released.
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Surrogate flight tests of the software and systems for the Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned combat aircraft system demonstrator (UCAS-D) have resulted in “hands-free” landings of an F/A-18 Hornet on a U.S. Navy carrier.
Controlled by the avionics and software from the X-47B, the F/A-18 conducted 58 coupled approaches to the USS Eisenhower on July 2, including 16 intentional touch-and-gos and six arrested landings, program officials say.
The tests keep the UCAS-D program on track for carrier trials of the unmanned X-47B in 2013. The first aircraft has flown at Edwards AFB, California, and both air vehicles will be delivered to the NAS Patuxent River, Md., test center for shore-based testing in 2012.
Acting as a surrogate, the F/A-18 showed the X-47B will be able to land autonomously under command from the ship. The tests included 28 straight-in, or Case 1, instrument approaches where the unmanned system took over control 8 mi. behind the ship.
The other 30 were visual, or Case 3, approaches where the system took over control as the F/A-18 passed the carrier on the downwind leg and then turned the aircraft on to its final approach, says Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Navy UCAS program manager.
Flights were conducted using precision GPS and Tactical Targeting Network Technology high-speed data links to navigate relative to the carrier and send commands to the aircraft.
Engdahl says the tests demonstrated the Navy’s distributed control concept, in which a mission operator on the carrier always has positive control of the aircraft, but the ship’s air traffic controller, the air boss in the tower and landing signals officer on the flight deck can send commands to the unmanned vehicle as they would to a manned aircraft.
“You send basic commands to the aircraft and the system calculates all the paths itself and puts together a profile,” says Don Blottenberger, deputy program manager. “The carrier exercises oversight and override, everything else is automated.”
The next steps are to complete flight-envelope expansion at Edwards and then ship the X-47Bs to Patuxent River for shore-based catapult launches, arrested landings and carrier pattern work through 2012, Engdahl says.
Further surrogate test flights are planned next year, working with the USS Truman, and one of the X-47Bs will be hoisted aboard the carrier to evaluate maneuvering of the unmanned aircraft on the flight deck.
Carrier trials of the X-47B in 2013 will be followed in 2014 by flight tests of autonomous aerial refueling. Flight tests for this phase of the program will begin late this year using a Learjet as a surrogate.
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The Navy’s Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) successfully completed its first test on the EA-18G Growler in China Lake, Calif. May 25.
A combined government/industry team conducted the EA-18G captive carry flight test in parallel with the ongoing AARGM Integrated Test & Evaluation phase on the FA-18 C/D aircraft. Captive carry tests are simulated launches where the weapon stays on the aircraft. The team gathers information from sensors on the weapon to evaluate AARGM performance.
“AARGM is a very capable weapon performing a complex mission. VX-31 and VX-9 have done a superb job of carrying and testing the weapon on FA-18C/Ds as well as Super Hornets,” said Cmdr. Chad Reed, deputy program manager for Anti-Radiation Missiles within the Direct and Time Sensitive Strike program office (PMA-242).
A complement to the existing AGM-88C High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM), AARGM provides the warfighter with a supersonic, air-launched tactical missile to be carried on the FA-18C/D, and Italian Air Force Tornado electronic countermeasures/reconnaissance aircraft.
“AARGM has the potential to be a superb compliment, a force multiplier, in fulfilling current Growler missions,” Reed added.
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The leader of the Navy’s celebrated Blue Angels flight team is stepping down after admitting to leading jets in an “unacceptably” low-altitude stunt at Lynchburg Regional Air Show on May 22.
Navy Cmdr. Dave Koss volunteered to be relieved of his duties, after admitting days following a performance at Lynchburg Regional Air Show that the movement he carried out “had an unacceptably low minimum altitude” and was not in accordance with airborne standards, according to a statement from the Naval Air Forces.
“This maneuver, combined with other instances of not meeting the airborne standard that makes the Blue Angels the exceptional organization that it is, led to my decision to step down,” Koss said in the statement.
Even though the maneuver went off without injuries and all members of the Blue Angels Team landed safely, after a safety review several of the team’s shows were cancelled, including a midweek show at the U.S. Naval Academy and performances scheduled over the Memorial Day Weekend.
Koss will be replaced by Capt. Greg McWherter, who was the previous Blue Angels‘ commanding officer, for the duration of the season.
The Blue Angels Demonstration Team currently flies the F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter, an aircraft with both fighter and attack capabilities. Their performance season runs from March to November.
Source: abc News