Sea Fighter Contributes to Rescue of Downed Air Force Pilot

Two F-15 aircraft from Eglin Air Force Base collided in mid-air on 20 February 2008 during a training mission over Gulf of Mexico waters south of Tyndall Air Force Base. Both pilots were rescued from the Gulf, but one later died, officials said. The F-15C Eagles collided just before 2 p.m. some 77 miles southeast of Eglin. The jets were part of Eglin´s 33rd Fighter Wing.

In the general vicinity of the mishap, the Office of Naval Research vessel Sea Fighter (FSF-1), homeported in Panama City, Florida, was under way supporting project work for the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division. Sea Fighter received communication from the U.S. Coast Guard of the impending search and rescue operation and at 2:06 p.m. Sea Fighter was directed by the Coast Guard to a position about 32 nautical miles south of Panama City Beach near Cape San Blas Island. Coast Guard aircraft vectored the fishing vessel Nina toward one of the downed pilots. The F/V Nina recovered the pilot at approximately 3:45 p.m., and then the pilot was transferred to Sea Fighter. The pilot appeared to be in good health. At 4:45 p.m. a Coast Guard helicopter picked up the pilot for further transfer to the Eglin AFB Hospital. The pilot was listed in good condition late Wednesday.

The Sea Fighter, a 262-foot-long catamaran that can reach speeds in excess of 50 knots, was built by the Office of Naval Research and entered Navy service in May 2005. The vessel serves as a platform for at-sea, operationally relevant science-and-technology and research-and-development experiments.

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