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Navy jet crash: A spotlight on the widely recognizable F/A-18

April 06, 2012|By Dalina Castellanos
  • Two U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron jets, better known as Blue Angels, can be seen from Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J., as they execute a survey flight over the Statue of Liberty.
Two U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron jets, better known as Blue… (AP Photo/Julio Cortez )

The type of jet that crashed into a Virginia Beach neighborhood Friday, the F/A-18 Hornet, is familiar to many Americans. It's been a workhorse of the U.S. military for almost 30 years -- not to mention the jet of choice for the Blue Angels, the Navy’s aerobatic team.

The twin-engine aircraft was introduced in 1983 as the replacement for the military’s F-14 Tomcat, which reached notoriety in the movie “Top Gun.”

The F/A-18 played a prominent role in Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s. The aircraft shot down Iraqi air force fighters in dogfights and took out key enemy strongholds with laser-guided bombs. It also ran combat patrols in Afghanistan, as The Times reported last year.

That story noted that the aircraft has been criticized as not being stealthy enough, although Boeing has tweaked the design over the years so it doesn't flash quite so readily on enemy radar screens.

The 56-foot-long aircraft has a wingspan of 40 feet, according to Boeing’s website. The jet's speed tops off at Mach 1.8, or well over 1,000 miles per hour. The aircraft comes in one-seat and two-seat versions.

Last year, the military announced the purchase of more F/A-18s after production of its replacement, the stealthier F-35, was deemed too costly and behind schedule.

Friday's crash occurred around 12:30 p.m. Eastern, sending six people to the hospital, including the jet's two crew members. The extent of the injuries was unknown, though they didn't appear critical, according to media reports. At least one person was treated for smoke inhalation.

The two crew members ejected safely. One was reportedly found in a backyard, seeming disoriented and still strapped to his seat. The crash sent up a dramatic plume of black smoke that could be seen for miles.


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