The fighter jet plummeted to the Earth near a rock formation along Highway 14 on the outskirts of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake on Tuesday afternoon. The cause of the crash is unknown, as is whether or not the aircraft was carrying live munitions at the time of the crash.
The explosion from the crash caused a small brush fire that firefighters from China Lake have put out, according to Bakersfield NBC affiliate KGET.
F18 PLANE CRASH: This is video just in from the scene near the Robbers Roost rock formation in East Kern County (near Hwy 14 and Hwy 178 junction). No word on any injuries. pic.twitter.com/bUZpRQu7tb— Eytan Wallace (@EytanWallace) October 20, 2020
ABC News’ Luis Martinez reported the Pentagon had confirmed the plane’s pilot ejected as the jet went down and suffered no major injuries as a result of the incident.
There has been an aircraft crash in Kern County at the 14/178 intersection, west of Ridgecrest. The pilot has told FD that munitions are onboard; NAWS China Lake isn't far. Law enforcement on scene. Not sure what type of aircraft specifically.— 🍃 Cascadia Fire Season 🍃 (@barkflight) October 20, 2020
This is the #DesertIC. pic.twitter.com/SdnnV3iFn8
China Lake is a massive research and development facility that covers a territory larger than the US state of Rhode Island. Many of the Navy’s weapons have been tested and developed there, including the Tomahawk cruise missile and Sidewinder anti-air missile. The facility was the site of a major earthquake in July 2019 that damaged enough of the base to force a temporary closure for inspection.
The Hornet in its various forms serves as the mainstay of US naval aviation. The Navy flies its C/D variants as well as the upgraded E/F Super Hornets and the E-18 Growler electronic warfare aircraft. Several have suffered major incidents this year, including two emergency landings at Naval Air Station Oceana in southeastern Virginia and one crash in the Philippine Sea.