Three E/A-18G Growler jets were struck by lightning on June 6 while they conducted operations over southern Japan, officials confirmed this week.
“No personnel were injured during this incident and all aircraft landed safely at Kadena Air Force Base,” Naval Air Forces spokesperson Ensign Bryan Blair said in an email. “Navy aircrew and ground support personnel are trained to respond to these scenarios and followed all procedures in accordance with U.S. Navy instructions.”
The Growlers are all assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron 135 out of Naval Air Station Whidby Island, Wash. VAQ-135 is currently assigned to Commander, Task Force 70, forward-deployed to U. S. 7th Fleet.
Blair said that lightning strikes on Navy aircraft “are infrequent, but sometimes occur when weather patterns do not progress as forecasted.”
On average, 12 lightning strikes involving Navy jets occurred each year between 2020 and 2022, according to Blair, and seven such strikes have happened so far in 2023.
While officials did not confirm the current status of the jets by Navy Times’ deadline Thursday, the Naval Safety Command has classified the lightning strikes as “Class A” mishaps, involving damages exceeding $2.5 million or total destruction of the aircraft. All three strikes are listed under one mishap entry, so it remains unclear whether that damage was per plane or in total.
There have been eight Class-A aviation mishaps so far in fiscal 2023, which ends Sept. 30, according to the Naval Safety Command, compared to 16 for all of fiscal 2022.
The Growler, a variant of the F/A-18 Super Hornet, conducts electronic warfare missions.
Correction: an earlier version of this report misstated the number lightning strikes involving Navy aircraft. Lightning has struck Navy aircraft 12 times a year on average between 2020 and 2022.
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