A Navy pilot missing as a result of a mid-air collision in the western Pacific Ocean on Friday has been identified as Lt. Nathan Poloski of Lake Arrowhead, Calif.
After Friday’s crash 290 miles west of Wake Island, the Navy said the search for Poloski covered more than 3,000 square miles and involved the USS Carl Vinson, guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill, guided-missile destroyers USS Gridley, USS Sterett, USS Dewey, helicopters assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 15 and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 73, P-8 Poseidon aircraft from Guam and satellite imagery. The search was unable to locate or recover any remains of the missing aviator. The search was called off Saturday.
According to an incident report, the collision occurred while the fighters were coming in for landing. The flight deck crew reported seeing the collision and debris rocketing through the air, according to the official report obtained by Navy Times.
One pilot ejected immediately, according to witnesses, and was recovered after about 45 minutes in the water. That pilot assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 113 is being treated for injuries and is listed in fair condition aboard the USS Vinson.
Following the apparent collision the Navy conducted an extensive search for Poloski, covering more than 3,000 square miles.
Poloski’s Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 94 based out of Naval Air Station Lemoore (Calif.) was deployed on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. The squadron and VFA 113 are part of Carrier Air Wing 17, also stationed at NAS Lemoore, about 40 miles southwest of Fresno. The USS Vinson’s homeport is San Diego.
According to Zip Upham, public affairs officer for NAS Fallon, Carrier Air Wing 17 trained in Fallon in March and April. The Carrier Strike Group, which has 6,200 sailors, includes the USS Carl Vinson and other ships that have been operating in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility to provide stability and security. Eventually the Carrier Strike Group will head toward the 5th Fleet AOR in the Persian Gulf to relieve the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, which has been launching air strikes against Islamic State militants in northern Iraq.
According to the Navy, Poloski was declared presumed dead 36 hours after an apparent collision between his F/A-18C Hornet and another Hornet during routine flight operations.
“Nathan was an outstanding person, naval officer and aviator,” said Cmdr. Michael Langbehn, commanding officer of VFA 94. “My personal thoughts and prayers are for his family, friends and shipmates as they endure this immeasurable loss.”
A 2009 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Poloski reported to VFA 94 in April 2014.
VFA 94, Carrier Air Wing 17 and the USS Carl Vinson will hold a memorial service on board USS Carl Vinson to honor the life and service of Poloski at a date and time to be determined. The cause of the incident remains under investigation.
The F/A-18 is a twin-engine fighter jet that has been a fixture on U.S. Navy aircraft carriers since 1983. The plane is also flown by the Blue Angels, the Navy’s flying aerobatic team.
Northrop Grumman Corp. in Los Angeles manufactures the aircraft’s fuselage sections.
This marks the fifth accident this year a Hornet has crashed, including these two incidents in the Pacific and another that involved a U.S. Marine Corps pilot who crashed east of NAS Fallon in late February in the Monitor Range near Austin, Nev.
The pilot of that Hornet, Capt. Reid B. Nannen, 32, of Hopedale, Ill., was assigned to Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242, Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III MEF. Navy officials said Nannen’s F/A-18C crashed on a training range.
The Marine jet was on loan to the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center. The Navy reported no other injuries or damage resulted from the crash and that no munitions or weapons were present during the training flight.