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Navy searches for pilot after jets crash into sea

LEMOORE, Calif. (AP) - Two U.S. Navy jets crashed into the western Pacific Ocean on Friday and only one pilot was immediately rescued, military officials said. A night search for the missing pilot was underway.

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 said from San Diego. 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, all based in San Diego.

"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.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet, a larger and more recent variant, crashed in June as it prepared to land on the Carl Vinson off the Southern California coast. The pilot was able to eject safely.

That crash happened just hours after a Harrier AV-8B fighter jet crashed into a Southern California neighborhood, destroying two homes and badly damaging a third. No one was seriously hurt.

About a month earlier, a Marine Corps Harrier jet had crashed on tribal land south of Phoenix, but the pilot was able to safely eject. And on March 1, Marine Capt. Reid Nannen was killed in a fighter jet crash during a training exercise in Nevada.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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