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U.S. Navy pilot missing after two F-18 jets crash into Pacific Ocean

A U.S. Navy F-18 aircraft. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

LEMOORE, Calif. (AP) — Two Navy fighter jets based in California crashed Friday in the far western Pacific Ocean, with one pilot safely ejecting but the other missing in the waters off the U.S. territory of Wake Island.

The F/A-18C Hornet fighter jets were from Carrier Air Wing 17 based at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California's San Joaquin Valley. The air wing is embarked on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

The crash occurred at 5:40 p.m. local time about 290 miles west of Wake Island, Navy Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld saido. Wake Island is 2,300 miles west of Honolulu.

Groeneveld said she couldn't release details of the crash, but an investigation already had started.

The rescued pilot was in fair condition in the medical department of the Carl Vinson, she said.

All other aircraft that were airborne at the time safely returned to the ship.

The search for the missing pilot involved the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill, the guided-missile destroyer USS Gridley, the USS Sperett, the USS Dewey and two helicopter squadrons.

The jets involved in the crash were from Strike Fighter Squadron 94 and Strike Fighter Squadron 113.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all involved," Groeneveld said.

The Carl Vinson strike group team departed San Diego on Aug. 22 for what was announced as a 9 1/2-month deployment.

The F/A-18C is a twin-engine, single-seat strike fighter, designed to function both as a fighter — in roles such as engaging enemy aircraft — and as an attack aircraft, bombing ground targets for example. Fifty-six feet long and with a wingspan of 40½ feet, Hornet C models have been deployed since the late 1980s.

Built by prime contractor McDonnell Douglas, the jets are capable of flying at speeds greater than Mach 1.7 and altitudes of more than 50,000 feet, according to the Navy.

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