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Navy Growler Damaged during Carrier Landing in South China Sea

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Officials are investigating after a Navy EA-18G Growler was damaged during an attempted landing aboard the carrier John C. Stennis in the South China Sea on May 29.

The aircraft was assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron 133, attached to the Stennis carrier air wing.

According to Navy officials, the Growler sustained damage when it engaged carrier arresting gear while still in flight. This resulted in damage to the nose of the aircraft and in foreign objects and debris from the flight deck getting sucked into the engine. While the extent of the damage is still being assessed, the aircraft is currently unable to fly.

A spokeswoman for Naval Air Forces Pacific, Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld, told Military.com the mishap took place as the electronic warfare aircraft was attempting to land aboard the Stennis in the evening of the 29th.

The Stennis was on patrol in the South China Sea at the time, she said. No sailors were injured, and no other ships or aircraft contributed to the mishap.

The Naval Safety Center initially listed the incident as a Class A mishap, meaning the $68 million aircraft suffered at least $2 million in damage. But Groeneveld said the classification was still being assessed and it could be downgraded to a lesser mishap.

"The initial report will always err on the high side," she said. "There were no injuries, but we don't know how much the damage is going to cost."

Maintenance officials were now evaluating the damage, she said, and determining whether the aircraft could be repaired underway or whether a new Growler would be flown out to the ship to replace the damaged aircraft. The squadron, she said, would have that answer within the next few days.

"They're not going to be short aircraft," Groeneveld said.

The Stennis and its carrier air wing have been operating in the South China Sea since mid-April amid rising tensions over contested islands and increasingly aggressive moves by China to stake its claim to the region.

On April 15, Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited the Stennis to emphasize the continued role the United States intended to play in maintaining stability.

"What's new is not an American carrier in this region," Carter said. "What's new is the context of tension which exists, which we want to reduce."

The Growler incident is the third major aircraft mishap for the Navy since January, and the second in just three days. On May 26, two F/A-18F Hornets collided off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, during a training mission. Miraculously, all four personnel aboard the two aircraft survived the crash.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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