Navy Ends Search for Missing Pilot in Western Pacific

WASHINGTON - The Navy has ended an extensive search for a missing fighter pilot aboard one of two F/A-18C jets that apparently collided Friday over the western Pacific. The missing pilot is presumed to be deceased.

The Navy's Seventh Fleet issued a statement saying it had ended its search and rescue efforts for the missing pilot 36 hours after the planes had crashed into the ocean 250 nautical miles off the coast of Wake Island.

The two single-seater aircraft had taken off from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and were headed to an operating station nearby when they collided seven miles from the ship.

One of the two pilots was recovered from the ocean by helicopter a short time after the crash and has been released from medical care.

Search efforts continued for the missing pilot initially involving helicopters and four surface ships accompanying the carrier. Eventually long range P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft were also used for the search.

A Navy official said Friday that it was unclear whether the missing pilot had ejected from his aircraft.

"This is an exceptionally difficult time for the friends and family of the missing pilot and the Navy community," said Rear Adm. Christopher Grady, Commander, Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group. "We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of support from the community. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this tragedy."

The identity of the pilot will not be released until the family notification process is complete. The cause of the accident remains under investigation.

Both pilots were assigned to fighter squadrons based at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California.

The USS Carl Vinson left its home port of San Diego on Aug. 22 to operate initially in the Pacific before moving on to a long-term deployment to the Persian Gulf where it would replace the carrier USS George HW Bush.

The F/A-18s aboard the Bush have been flying missions over Iraq for the past two months and were among the first U.S. aircraft to conduct airstrikes against ISIS targets in early August.