UPDATE: The top picture was changed to an image of an F-18/D.
When the Coast Guard was notified at 10:15 p.m. last night that the U.S. Marine Corps lost communication with one of its F/A-18 Hornet jets approximately 85 miles southwest of San Diego, Coast Guard search and rescue assets were in the area, immediately diverting to help locate the missing aircraft and the two pilots aboard.
A Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento C-130 Hercules aircraft was already in the air and was the first asset to arrive on scene. The 110-foot Coast Guard Cutter Edisto also happened to be nearby on a patrol, arriving on scene about an hour later.
Coast Guard Sector San Diego’s Rescue 21 system picked up the Emergency Locator Transmitter signal from the Marine Corps jet allowing Coast Guard and U.S. Navy resources to narrow down the search area.
During cutter Edisto’s search, crewmembers could hear the Marines’ voices and whistles. This on scene information, along with the Coast Guard C-130 aircraft’s ability to hone in on the emergency signal and use onboard sensors and infrared cameras, enabled a Coast Guard Sector San Diego MH-60 Jahawk helicopter to vector on the survivors’ location. The aircrew deployed the rescue swimmer and hoisted both aviators to safety.
Within only a few hours of the initial report, the pilots were recovered and immediately flown to the hospital. Both Marines are reported in stable condition.
What could have been a tragedy ended well with lives saved and returned home to their loved ones. While the Coast Guard’s success has a lot to do with vigilance, rigorous training, exceptional preparation and mission-ready assets, it is being on the water, forward deployed and ready to respond at a moment’s notice that ensures our people are at the right place, at the right time.