On January 25, 1987 the USS Nimitz was in the Middle East, near Libya. At around 6pm that night, Ranger 12, an EA-3B from VQ-2 prepared to be
launched on a classified mission. On board were pilot Lt. Alan Levine, 26. Lt. Cmdr Ron Callander, 37, Navigator. In the belly were five intelligence
specialists. Rick Herzing, 22, Lt. Steve Batcheider, 30, Lt. Jim Richards, 27, Pat Price, 26, and Craig Rudolf, 20. Pat Price belonged to the
classified unit known as Navy Security Group Department: 30.
What the crew did on the mission is still unknown, but it's believed that they were evesdropping on Libyan communications, as well as Russian
intelligence ships in the area. The mission lasted just under 4 hours, and by 10:30, they were ordered to return to the ship. Levine was a fairly new
pilot, but had graduated 2nd in his class of 12. This night, the skies were overcast, and the night was moonless.
Levine made three attempts at landing, and missed on all three. He was ordered to bingo to Cyprus, but had to refuel to make it. Instead of the usual
A-6 tanker, this night it was an A-7. The exhaust of the engine was bouncing the basket around, and Levine ended up hitting it so hard that it
crimped, making refueling not possible. So he returned to the ship, as the only option.
After making two more attempts, the crew was ordered to rig the barricade. Even if he came in high, the barricade should stop the aircraft and get
them on the deck. Aircraft that used the barrier had frequently been launched again after an hour.
On the last attempt by Ranger 12, they came in high, and the nose gear hit the barricade. This resulted in the aircraft hitting the deck, with the
nose gear collapsed. The aircraft broke in two and went off the deck into the water. The Nimitz searched for three days, but no trace of the crew was
The Navy announced the crash, which barely got any coverage, in part because it was the first anniversary of the Challenger disaster.
They train night landings regularly. Because you can't fight a war just in the daylight.
But it's bloody dangerous. A retired naval aviator, who has since passed, once told me landing on a carrier deck is an excercize in reverse opticals.
The closer you get, the smaller the deck seems to get. He was an aviator back just after WWII. Flew over Korea off the USS Boxer (if I'm
remembering correctly...), did many a night trap until his retirement in the 80's.
a reply to: Zaphod58
Am I right in thinking that at about the 1:35-40 mark you can see the tail of the aircraft bobbing off the port rear quarter? I would have thought
that they would have been steaming close to 30kts for the landing so either they weren't going that fast, were stationary or a Nimitz class can be
stopped inside its own length. I wonder if they ever attempted to recover the aircraft given its location was known and the Med is not as
comparatively deep as say the Pacific? There would have been sensitive gear on board they wouldn't want to risk the Soviets or even Libya getting
their hands on.
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