US Navy identifies deceased F/A-18F Super Hornet pilots

The US Navy has identified two aviators who died March 14, 2018, when their F/A-18F Super Hornet crashed on final approach near Naval Air Station, Key West, Florida.

The aviators have been identified as Lt. Cmdr. James Brice Johnson and Lt. Caleb Nathaniel King, both Florida residents.

Both pilots were assigned to the “Blacklions” of Strike Fighter Squadron Two One Three(VFA-213), based at Naval Air Station Oceana and assigned to Carrier Air Wing Eight.

“The entire Blacklion Family is grieving the loss of two great Americans. Lt. Cmdr. Johnson and Lt. King were phenomenal young men, exceptional naval aviators, and were living models of what honor, courage and commitment really mean,” said VFA-213’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Kevin Robb.

Johnson, a naval aviator and 2007 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, was piloting the jet when the incident occurred while King, a 2012 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was serving as the weapons systems operator.

“As warfighters they excelled in combat, as naval officers they exemplified the qualities of what our Navy values most dear. I was extremely proud to have led, flown and served with both Brice and Caleb,” Robb said. “I would ask that during this trying time we all keep the families of our two heroes in our thoughts and prayers.”

The F/A-18F remains in the water where it crashed and will stay there until a Mishap Investigation Board (MIB) conducts its investigation. The MIB will examine previous aircraft maintenance, number of hours flown on the aircraft, physical condition of the aircrew and their activities previous to the accident.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and squadron mates of these two aviators,” said Rear Adm. Roy J. Kelley, commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic. “A full investigation will be conducted to discover the cause of this mishap.”

On March 15 VFA-213 squadron took the day off from training in order to grieve. The remaining squadrons in Carrier Air Wing EIGHT were briefed on the mishap and then resumed normal training operations.

VFA-213 is scheduled to complete their training in Key West on March 21 where they will return to Naval Air Station Oceana.