Navy officials are investigating what caused the fire to break out after the attack aircraft took off Oct. 4 from Naval Air Station Lemoore, where the jet is based. The Super Hornet is assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 22, the Fighting Redcocks.
A pilot and a weapons-system officer were aboard the aircraft when the incident occurred, said Cmdr. Ron Flanders, a spokesman for Naval Air Forces. Neither was injured, and they returned to Lemoore for the emergency landing.
"The exact time and location of the event is part of an ongoing investigation," Flanders said. "The investigation will seek to determine the cause and give a detailed amount of damages."
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The engine fire caused a minimum of $2 million in damages to the aircraft, making it a Class-A mishap, according to the Naval Safety Center. No additional details about the mishap, including the aircrew's qualifications, were immediately available.
The incident marked the first of two Class-A aviation mishaps for the Navy so far in fiscal 2019, which began Oct. 1. Last week, two HH-60H Sea Hawk helicopters collided while taxiing on a runway in Japan.
Readiness issues have plagued the Navy's F/A-18 fleet in recent years. Now-retired Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, the former head of naval aviation, told Congress last fall that only half of the service's Super Hornets were flyable, and less than a third were deployable.
The Navy created a team to identify and address long-term impacts of aviation readiness shortfalls as a result of the problems in the strike-fighter community.