Ouch: Navy Super Hornet Goes Home in a C-5

Well, it might have been a sad day for Navy fighter jocks and a proud day for Air Force cargo haulers. A Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet became the first U.S. fighter jet ever to be flown home from war inside a cargo plane on Aug. 18.

As you can see above, the poor Super Hornet was stripped down and loaded into an Air Force C-5 Galaxy and flown from Kandahar Afghanistan to NAS North Island in San Diego, Calif., nearly six months after a rough landing left the fighter unable to fly. See, normally fighter jocks get to fly their planes to and from combat zones. Heck, even when something goes wrong with a plane the military will usually try to ferry the jet home with an experienced fighter pilot at the controls. This Super Hornet was too badly damaged for that to happen.

From an Air Force announcement:

n March, while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, the Hornet experienced malfunctions which caused it to divert and land at Kandahar Airfield. Upon landing, the aircraft experienced hot brakes and upon stopping, both brakes were engulfed in flames. The Kandahar, Fire and Rescue extinguished the fire, but the right fuselage was severely damaged.

While not beyond repair, the jet couldn’t be flown home. So, who else are you gonna call?

“We’re willing to help any of our sister services who need it,” said Air Force Maj. Steven Hertenstein, the pilot of the C-5 who is deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. “Carrying cargo is what this aircraft was designed to do, and we’re glad to be a part this.”

I’m sure the C-5 crew was pretty amused by the fact that they were carrying a hot $h*t Navy fighter back to the ‘states in their cargo deck.

The whole effort required the help of ‘units accross the base” according to the Air Force. The air service’s expeditionary RED HORSE civil engineers even had to build wooden ramps to help ease the fighter onto the C-5’s aft cargo ramp. Meanwhile, Marine aircraft technicians helped Navy officials dissemble the aircraft  and prep if for its journey home. Apparently, transporting the Super Hornet home cost a third of the $65 million price tag for a new F/A-18E/F.

Uh, Fly Navy?

  • blight

    Technically, it would be flying home with AMC, so Air Mobility Command?

    In older days, these would be cannibalized for parts on the front line, going home isn’t so ignominious after all…

    • jumper

      Yeah… I remember stripping anything useful and then cutting the aircraft up with sawsalls and sending a crate of scrape aluminum back to the States. Seems they did more damage to the thing prepping it for shippment than a hard landing could have produced.

      • blight

        Makes you wonder at the scale of the damage that they couldn’t send factory reps and a C-5 full of equipment to make on site repairs. They did that much for that C-5 in Shemya…enough repairs for one flight back to the factory.

  • THomas

    Agree with blight, article makes a big deal outta a small thing really

  • TLAM Strike

    The brakes on a US fighter get hot and the plane catches fire and is ruined.

    You land a MiG-29 on its belly and all you do is scratch the paint.

    No one see the design flaw?

  • Stan

    How does it cost $20 million dollars to fly this aircraft back to US?

    • JoeC

      It doesn’t. This is a number pulled from thin air.

      • blight

        Makes you wonder what the “real” cost is…

    • yeah, i was wandering that too.
      if the price tag for a new fighter is 65M and just transporting the broken one back to the US (not counting reassembling and repairs) cost 20M maybe cannibalizing for spare part would have been a better idea?

      • blight

        It would save on shipping fresh parts from Bahrain, Diego or CONUS or wherever spares come from. However, I imagine the AF likes to have parts with zero hours on them…

    • jetmech96

      I am thinking it is $20 Million for Boeing to repair it, not transport.

  • leon

    looks like a C-17 in the photo.

    • M167A1

      Its a C-5. the tail cone is elongated on the C-17

      • CrazyK

        Besides, you can see the side cargo doors on the picture sticking out from the side of the cargo bay. A C-17 only has one door that opens up into the cargo bay. Go Air Force!

      • SMSgt Mac

        Not to mention the tail number is a 70XXXX… as in authorized in 1970 appropriations. (A tad ahead of the C-17’s conception

        • A-10 Loader

          Yes, its a C-5. And that thing cracked a pressure panel so the crew had to fly with O2 masks on.

  • JoeC

    65 million for a new Hornet. And how much for one of those JSFs? Double?

    Seems to me, especially with budget austerity on its way (if we’re sane), we should cancel that boondoggle JSF and just keep buying Hornets.

  • arby

    One hopes that they will continuously be finding “zaps” hidden in the aircraft until the day it goes to the boneyard. And even then, some will remain. ;^)

    • Alton

      Had a Hornet that a long time ago came in, struck the ramp a little too hard and lost the bottom half of the Landing gear. Well when he finally hit the deck he literally punched a hole in the deck of the carrier and caused a lot of problems. Had to suspend flight ops and drag the plane away from the hole and for the next two days, weld the hole shut, STS steel is hard to find you know and welding the deck well…Anyways that plan got cannalbized but evventually flew again maybe a year later. Had something like this happen on another carrier a few years later but no holes this time, just the gear snapped off. fact is it does happen

  • rob

    Kandahar crash crew seems to be the party that would be at fault considering the pilot had a malfunction requiring clearance to land. CC should have been dressed and on the airstrip. Without details it’s all speculation though.

  • Sam

    What a $h*t article!!!!

  • Lance

    HAHAHA serves you right if you like that dumb Super Hornet its so not such a wounder plane admirals said it was. If they were still flying F-14D and proposed F model Tomcats none of this would have happened.

  • Kent

    Any citations for $21.5 million to fly the aircraft home?

  • roland

    We should install computerize diagnostic software to diagnose early warning malfunction before takeoff and use. And hire more aircraft jet mechanics.

    • blight

      You forgot: and buy F-23’s. Maybe two or three thousand.

    • cthel

      The damage was caused by overheating brakes, not anything connected to the engines (and also not something that a computerised diagnostic would neccessarily pick up).

      • roland

        This technology was already in use on some cars. Why not on jets too?

        • blight

          ODB-2 wouldn’t have saved this jet

  • Hunter78

    Why are they disrespecting this working-class plane? They should bring it home in a genuine USAF brass execu-liner.

  • ford250

    Sounds like a hot tow truck for the sky jocks,any thing to save a buck these day’s. good to see a team effort as a end result.

  • A-10 Loader

    I guess someone forgot that KAF is an airfield not a carrier. Hey guys, the runway is over 11,000 feet, not 550, easy on the brakes!!

  • Alton

    We do. it’s called…wait a minute. I can’t tell you. Its a secret and if I did …Naw seriously it’s been installed on planes since oh maybe the late 70s. My guess this was the day that instead of being top dog, he was the fire hydrant. I’ve had some those and it ain’t good.

  • 21,5 million to send back crap come home it is truly joke.

  • Old Vet

    The numbers hardly make any sense. Flying in parts and a team from Boeing might have been easier, cheaper and less noticed. Hell, they could have boxed it up and sent it UPS or FedX.