Losses and Aviation Safety

USMC F/A-18 Pilot who Ejected Off the Coast of Japan last December was Alive for 10 Hours

Capt. Jahmar Resilard, 28, was wearing a Garmin Fenix 3 smartwatch and it showed that his heart was beating until 1130 hrs. His body was recovered less than an hour later by JS Setoyuki.

Investigations into the collision of a F/A-18 with a KC-130J off the coast of Japan on Dec. 6, 2018 found that the pilot of the fighter aircraft was alive for nearly 10 hours after ejections.

The group flew out of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni near Hiroshima.

As reported by Stars and Stripes, Capt. Jahmar Resilard, 28, was wearing a Garmin Fenix 3 smartwatch and it showed that his heart was beating until 1130 hrs. His body was recovered less than an hour later by JS Setoyuki.

Resilard — referred to as “MP2” by investigators — ejected from the fighter jet at 1:44 a.m. on Dec. 6, according to the command investigation report released Sept. 26.

 “Capt. Jahmar Resilard was wearing a Garmin Fenix 3 smartwatch when he ejected from an F/A-18 Hornet at 1:44 a.m., Dec. 6, 2018, after a midair collision with a KC-130J refueler, according to the command investigation report. Data from the watch indicated that his heart was beating at an average of 86 beats per minute until approximately 11:30 a.m.,” the report states.

“MP2’s Garmin smart watch indicates that MP2 was alive on the surface of the ocean from approximately 0145 until approximately 1130 (nine hours and 45 minutes) in 68 degree Fahrenheit water.”

An autopsy report showed the downed aviator had cuts and bruises, a head injury and appeared to have drowned.

Investigators noted that neither Resilard nor his weapons officer, who also ejected but was rescued from an inflatable raft, were wearing anti-exposure suits that can prolong survival in cold water.

LCpl Jade Farrington, identified by DVIDS, PUBLIC DOMAIN

Marine and Navy aviators are given the option of wearing the suits based on factors such as likely rescue response time, water temperature and their body fat.

None of the witnesses interviewed from the downed Hornet’s unit — Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 — had worn or observed others in the unit wearing anti-exposure suits, the investigators noted.

A Topgun fighter tactics instructor graduate in the squadron, when asked about the suits in the context of the mishap, told investigators he wouldn’t have worn one during a night mission over 68-degree water.

“I wouldn’t wear it. They’re a huge pain,” the unnamed pilot said in the report.

The downed Hornet’s weapons officer was recovered alive at 5:43 a.m. by a Japanese military SH-60 helicopter, four hours after ejecting, and taken to Komatsushima, Japan, the report states.

In his interview, the officer talked about struggling to survive, shivering and bailing water from a raft while awaiting rescue. He told investigators that he assumed rescuers would respond within 30 minutes, later amending his answer to 50 minutes.

The Marine Corps doesn’t have search-and-rescue capability at MCAS Iwakuni, investigators noted.

Four officers from Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 – its commander, executive officer, operations officer and aviation safety officer — were fired as a result of the investigation.

The service should also establish its own search-and-rescue capabilities at MCAS Iwakuni along with conducting annual full spectrum search-and-rescue exercises with all available host nations and joint assets, investigators said.

Maj. Brian Block, a III Marine Expeditionary Force spokesman, said in an email Thursday that 1st Marine Air Wing has been ordered to develop a “Search-and-Rescue (SAR) memorandum of understanding.”

Photo credit: U.S. Marine Corps

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.

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