The US Navy has grounded all of its F/A-18 Super Hornet and E/A-18 Growler fighter jets after an incident that injured two over the weekend.
The temporary order was issued on Friday, when a Navy Growler assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron 132 sustained heavy damages and injured both of its aircrew during what officials called an “on-deck emergency,” according to Navy spokeswoman Commander Jeanette D. Groeneveld.
The mishap took place before an 11 am takeoff at the Whidbey Island air station on Puget Sound, Washington. The Navy refused to disclose the extent of the injuries the airmen had suffered.
The Navy had to ground all Super Hornets and Growlers because they rely on the same avionics, Vice Admiral Mike Shoemaker, commander of Naval Air Forces on North Island, said.
The Growler is basically a Super Hornet with electronic warfare systems on-board. The Navy started to use the aircraft as a replacement for Northrop Grumman’s EA-6B Prowlers in 2009.
Some exception maybe made on a “case-by-case basis dependent upon operational requirements,” the force said in a statement.
Boeing, the aircraft’s manufacturer, was probing the cause of the incident in cooperation with Naval Air Systems Command.
North Island officials said they were expecting to have some clues by Monday.
Friday's incident occurred just days after a US Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet aircraft crashed off the coast of southern Japan, further baffling American military officials who have yet to offer an explanation for the aircraft’s high crash rate.
This was the 10th crash involving F/A-18 variants over the past six months (including a Canadian CF-18 lost in late November.
Alarmed by the high number of crashes between June and October, the US Marine Corps temporarily grounded all of its non-deployed Hornets. Two more jets crashed few days after the ban was lifted.
According to the US Naval Institute (USNI), the crashes last year slashed the number of available Hornet aircraft for training purposes to 85, far fewer than the 171 required.