The civilian mariners who crew Military Sealift Command’s Bob Hope-class USNS Mendonca (T-AKR 303), a large, medium speed roll-on, roll-off ship (LSMR), brought aboard an F/A-18E Super Hornet from the Augusta Bay Port Facility in Sicily, Italy, on Aug. 16, 2022.
As told by Story by Bill Mesta, USN Military Sealift Command, in the article USNS Mendonca Transports Recovered Navy F/A-18E Aircraft to the United States, the aircraft was brought aboard Mendonca to be transported back to the US.
The F/A-18E Super Hornet blew off the deck of USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) aircraft carrier on Jul. 8, 2022. The single-seat Super Hornet belonging to Strike Fighter Squadron 211 (VFA-211) “Fighting Checkmates” and assigned to Carrier Air Wing 1 was knocked off the deck of the carrier in what the Navy at the time called “unexpected heavy weather” during the midst of an underway replenishment.
“The Mendonca’s crew assisted with planning the lift, landing the aircraft from the salvage barge’s crane, and securing the F/A-18 on deck,” according to Capt. James Gill, USNS Mendonca’s Master. “The USNS Mendonca received the tasking due to our available cargo space and geographic location. We were the right piece at the right place at the right time.”
The aircraft was recovered on Aug. 3 from a depth of approximately 9,500 feet by a team from Task Force (CTF) 68, Naval Sea Systems Command’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV), Harry S. Truman, Naval Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, and US 6th Fleet embarked on the multi-purpose construction vessel MPV Everest. It was then transported to Italy.
The Super Hornet was recovered using a CURV-21 remotely operated vehicle to attach specialized rigging and lift lines to the aircraft. A lifting hook was attached to the rigging to raise the aircraft to the surface and hoist it aboard Everest.
Mendonca has over 73,000 square feet of weather-deck space for cargo, and twin pedestal cranes which made the ship a perfect platform to transport the aircraft back to the US.
“The return of the F-18 came up as a lift of opportunity during our recent mission in support of Operation Resolute Castle,” according to Gill. “Our configuration and cargo capabilities allow us support many different types of cargo. Whether it is lift-on, lift-off, roll-on, roll-off, containerized or break-bulk cargo, we can do it all; from artillery, armor, vehicles of all sizes, containers, helicopters, and now tactical aircraft.”
The F/A-18’s ultimate destination is Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. “Mendonca’s crew performed extremely well,” Gill stated. “The unique nature of the lift and aircraft has provided a break from the routine and kept everyone interested and involved.”
Gill also credited overseas shore-side partners for the successful aircraft on load.
“MSC Europe and Africa’s staff and the Port Operations Team made the process quick and painless,” Gill stated. “We pulled in, anchored, conducted the lift, secured the aircraft, and cleared the port in a little over four and a half hours.”
USNS Mendonca is crewed by approximately 30 civilian contract mariners who are employed by US Marine Management, Inc.
Photo credit: U.S. Navy
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