Navy F-5N Goes Down off Key West, Prompting Helicopter Rescue

A U.S. Navy F-5N Tiger II from Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 111 ‘Sun Downers’ takes off from Naval Air Station Key West's Boca Chica Field.
A U.S. Navy F-5N Tiger II from Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 111 ‘Sun Downers’ takes off from Naval Air Station Key West's Boca Chica Field, Jan. 28, 2022. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nicholas V. Huynh/U.S. Navy photo)

A Navy pilot had to eject from a training jet and was rescued from the ocean near Key West, Florida, on Wednesday, according to the service.

The F-5N aircraft went into the water about 25 miles from Boca Chica Field on Wednesday morning. The pilot was assigned to Fighter Squadron Composite 111, known as the "Sun Downers," based at Naval Air Station Key West, a Navy statement said.

The base launched an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter and rescued the pilot, who was taken "to a Miami-area hospital for further evaluation," the service said.

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Naval Air Station Key West is located on one of the final islands in the Florida Keys archipelago, close to the city of Key West and about 130 miles to 165 miles from Miami.

The pilot, who has not been identified by the service, was flying a single-seater F-5N "Adversary Aircraft" -- a jet operated by the Navy to simulate enemy jets in training exercises.

A website for the annual Key West Air Show noted that all of the pilots in the Sun Downers squadron "are former F/A-18 Hornet pilots and most are Top Gun graduates," referring to the prestigious Navy flight training school that draws the service's top pilots.

The squadron is composed of both active-duty and reservist personnel. The Navy did not specify the status of the pilot in this incident.

According to a Navy fact sheet, all of the F-5Ns in the Navy's possession were "low-hour" aircraft purchased from the Swiss Air Force in 2006 and 2020.

The Navy has said that the cause of the incident will be investigated and promised to release more details as they become available.

According to data from the Naval Safety Command, the Navy has had four "Class A" aviation mishaps to date this year. The term refers to an incident when the resulting damage is more than $2.5 million or it leads to death or serious disability.

In January, a Navy jet crashed in Alabama during a training flight, but both pilots ejected and suffered no major injuries.

In March and April, there were three aircraft that experienced issues while still on the ground. One incident was described simply as a "mechanical failure," another involved an F/A-18 jet being damaged by a jet blast deflector, and finally a P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft blew out some tires on takeoff but managed to land safely.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

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