Losses and Aviation Safety

That time a US Navy F/A-18 shot down a US Navy E-2C on purpose to avoid casualties

US Navy officials decided the plane was a potential hazard to civilian populations in Cyprus and Syria as well as to ships.

On Jul. 9, 1991 the US Navy was forced to shoot down one of its own aircraft over the Mediterranean when the crew of an E-2C Hawkeye from USS Forrestal bailed out due to a fire. The plane continued to fly, so an F/A-18 downed it with a 20mm to prevent it from crashing in a populated area.

The Hawkeye was attached to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 122 (VAW-122) based at Norfolk Naval Air Station and its crew members were recovered by helicopters from the Forrestal and the cruiser USS Yorktown.

As Daily Press reported, the most severe injury was a cut on the chin that required ”two or three” stitches.

Cmdr. Steve Honda, then spokesman for the Atlantic Fleet Naval Air Force, said that the Hawkeye, with its distinctive radar disc, was flying over the Mediterranean on a ”routine air patrol” in support of the allied relief effort in northern Iraq when its starboard engine caught fire at about 5 a.m. EDT.

After determining that the fire could not be extinguished the E-2C crew bailed out about 40 miles southeast of Cyprus. Then the Hornet shot down the Hawkeye with its 20mm M61A1 Vulcan cannon.

US Navy officials decided the plane was a potential hazard to civilian populations in Cyprus and Syria as well as to ships.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. E-2C Hawkeye 2000 VAW-112 Golden Hawks, NG600 / 165820 / 2015

The Hawkeye (still today) provides all-weather airborne early warning, airborne battle management and command and control functions for the Carrier Strike Group and Joint Force Commander. Additional missions include surface surveillance coordination, air interdiction, offensive and defensive counter air control, close air support coordination, time critical strike coordination, search and rescue airborne coordination and communications relay. An integral component of the Carrier Strike Group air wing, the E-2 uses computerized radar, Identification Friend or Foe and electronic surveillance sensors to provide early warning, threat analysis against potentially hostile air and surface targets.

According Retired Rear Adm. Eugene Carroll Jr., a former commander of a Mediterranean carrier task force and then deputy director of the private, Washington-based Center for Defense Information, there was no armament on board. ”There would be some encryption devices, a few classified technical manuals and some intelligence reports, but probably nothing above the secret classification,” a mid-level security designation.

However, Carroll said that the decision to shoot down the plane didn’t involve any fear of loss of equipment to an unfriendly power.

What Carroll said he found interesting is that the plane continued to fly long enough for the carrier task force commander to be found and briefed on the situation, and the Hornet sent to destroy it.

The Hawkeye’s pilot ”probably put it on auto-pilot to make sure everyone got out OK. It must’ve flown along for a while,” he concluded.

E-2C Hawkeye from VAW-122 at NAS Oceana, Virginia.

Photo credit: US Navy

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

Recent Posts

And here’s Argentina first F-16

Argentina first F-16 On Apr. 16, 2024, Argentina has finalised a deal to procure former… Read More

7 hours ago

Do you feel the need for speed? Watch this video of SR-71 Blackbird J58 Engine tested in full Afterburner

SR-71 Blackbird spy plane’s J58 engine tested in full Afterburner Taken at Beale Air Force… Read More

20 hours ago

Here’s why aircraft camouflage can be very effective

Aircraft camouflage Camouflage, in the form of paint applied to aircraft, has been regularly studied… Read More

20 hours ago

B-52 pilots recall performing the Whifferdill turn during aerial refuelings at 70 Deg bank angle

B-52 Stratofortress performing Whifferdill turn while refueling from Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker The impressive photos in… Read More

2 days ago