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The Real Story of the USS Kitty Hawk Incident
Source: Military E-Mail
Published: 9 December 2000 Author: U.S. Navy F/A-18 Pilot
Posted on 12/13/2000 17:32:15 PST by Spook86
Note: The following is an eyewitness account of the recent Russian "buzzing" of the USS Kitty Hawk in the Sea of Japan. It was written by a U.S. Navy F/A-18 pilot who was on the carrier at the time of the incident. I received this via e-mail from a military colleague who, in turn, verified that it came from the Kitty Hawk. It makes for interesting reading, and provides a remarkable account of the absolute buffoonery that took place during the incident. Comments in brackets were added to clarify or explain military jargon
Flying ** : -Cruise was pretty easy and interesting: 54 days at sea, 40 traps [carrier landings], and 45 [flying] hours in the month of October alone! Yes, we flew our asses off! Since I'm one of three department heads with all my quals I fly a lot. Here's an interesting story (this is a no sh---er). I was on the bridge in line to drive the ship as there are a bunch of O-5s and a few O-4s earning our "coming alongside" qual. It's a gay shoe boy ***** where you give commands to the helm and lee helm (that's the throttle, dude) and you're actually flying formation on the replenishment ship during UNREPS [underway replenishment ops]. You do this under the close supervision of the Captain of the ship and the CDO (command duty officer--an O-5, usually the navigator or assistant navigator).
Anyways, I'm sitting there bullsh-----g with my XO [executive officer] who is also getting his qual and we hear on the CO's squawk box a call from CIC (Combat Info Center). They said "sir, we're getting indications of Russian fighter activity." His response was "launch the alert fighters." Combat told him the highest alerts were Alert 30s [launch within 30 minutes of notification]. The Captain got p---ed and said "launch everything we've got ASAP." I ran to the navigator's phone and called the SDO [squadron duty officer]. Our squadron didn't have alert duty that day, bummer, so I told him to find out who did and get their ass moving up to the flight deck (only Alert 7s are actually sitting on the flight deck, ready to go; alert 30s means you are in the ready room).
Anyways, 40 minutes after the CO called away the alerts, a Russian SU-27 Flanker [air superiority fighter--similar to a U.S. F-15] and SU-24 [strike fighter, akin to an F-111] Fencer made a 500 knot, 200 foot pass directly over the tower of the Kitty Hawk...it was just like in Top Gun, shoes on the bridge spilled coffee and everyone said "H--y S---!. I looked at the Captain at this point and his face was red. He looked like he just walked in on his wife getting boned by a Marine. The Russian fighters made two more high speed, low altitude passes before we finally launched the first aircraft off the deck...a EA-6B Prowler [electronic warfare aircraft]. That's right...we launched a f-----g Prower and he ended up in a 1 versus 1 with the Flanker just in front of the ship. The Flanker was all over his ass (kind of like a bear batting around a little bunny right before he eats it). He was screaming for help when finally an [F/A-18] Hornet from our sister squadron (I use this term in the literal sense because they looked like a bunch of f-----g girls playing with the Russians) got off the deck and made the intercept. It was too late. The entire crew watched overhead as the Russians made a mockery of our feeble attempt to intercept them. The funny part of the story was the Admiral and the CAG [Carrier Air Group Commander] were in their morning meeting in the war room andthey were interrupted by the thundering roar of Russians buzzing the tower. A CAG staff dude told me they looked at each other and our airplan, noticed we didn't have any flights scheduled until a few hours later, and said "what was that?"
Four days later, the Russian intelligence agency e-mailed the CO of the Kitty Hawk and enclosed pictures they had taken of our dudes scrambling around the flight deck, frantically trying to get airborne. I'm quite sure the f-----g loser shoe boy [black shoe=ship driver/surface warfare officer] in charge of our battle group's air defense was fired. It's also ironic that the Admiral's change-of-command occurred just a few weeks prior to this incident. Anyways, the Russians tried to come out a few other times, and we were more than ready. I personally intercepted an IL-38 May [anti-submarine wargfare aircraft] and shoved my wingtip in front of his windscreen to prevent him from turning towards the ship (yeah, yeah we're friends now, blow me). In typical Navy Senior officer knee jerk fashion our entire airwing stood alerts around the clock as if WWII was going to break out anytime. This story was plasteredall over Russian and Japanese newspapers yesterday. The Russians even awarded their aircrew medals for their achievement. What f-----g shame! I felt like I was on the Bad News Bears and we got our asses kicked, and I didn't even get off the bench to help the team.
Had to clean up the salty (no pun intended) language, but I can understand this Hornet driver's frustration. Unfortunately, the e-mail doesn't answer a couple of salient questions, i.e., did maintenance or parts problems prevent the Kitty Hawk from keeping F/A-18s on higher alert as they transited the Sea of Japan? Additionally, if the carrier couldn't launch aircraft sooner, why didn't some of its escort vessels lock up the Russian jets with their surface-to-air missile radars, and remind them that we could still blast them from the sky. Getting locked-up by a SAM radar produces very distinct visual and audio cues in the cockpit. However, I get the impression that the Kitty Hawk's AEGIS cruiser didn't do that. All-in-all, a very sad day for the Kitty Hawk battle group, and the U.S. Navy.
BTW, this e-mail confirms initial reports of the incident that appeared in the Washington Times, including the post-mortem pictures e-mailed by Russian military intelligence to the Kitty Hawk. As you'll recall, Bill Cohen's cabana boy (Ken Bacon) denied those elements of the story. What a Clymer!