KEY WEST, Florida – A U.S. Navy F-5N Tiger II fighter jet crashed off the coast of Key West this morning during a training flight. The aircraft was assigned to VFC-111, a naval aggressor squadron based at Naval Air Station Key West.
The single seat fighter went down at approximately 9:15 AM local time roughly 20 miles south of Sigsbee Park. Navy officials say the jet was flying as part of an adversary training mission for fighter aircrews from Carrier Air Wing 8.
Search and rescue efforts were immediately dispatched to the crash site. The pilot of the downed F-5 ejected safely and was swiftly recovered by rescue crews. The pilot was assessed by medical personnel on the scene and is reported to be in good condition despite the harrowing incident.
VFC-111 operates F-5N and F-5F Tiger II aircraft to provide realistic adversary training for Navy and Marine Corps units. By using aircraft that simulate enemy capabilities, aggressor squadrons allow frontline combat crews to gain critical experience against simulated airborne threats. The squadron’s F-5s are painted in exotic camouflage schemes used by foreign air forces to better replicate potential adversaries.
While the cause of the accident remains under investigation, naval aviation safety officers will thoroughly analyze the incident. The top priority will continue to be the health and safety of the pilot as well as the surrounding community. Navy officials also stressed this event highlights the risks and dangers inherent in complex fighter jet training flights.
This crash comes less than a month after an F-35C from VFA-147 had an in-flight mishap near MCAS El Centro. The quick succession of these accidents underscores the high level of risk associated with operating powerful high-performance fighter aircraft at the edge of the flight envelope. For now, the Navy is thankful the F-5 pilot is safe and there were no casualties on the ground. Investigators will now shift their focus to determining exactly what went wrong and how to prevent future occurrences.