One Chinese F-8 fighter pilot thought it was the year of the serpent when he attempted to intimidate an American Navy EP-3 patrol plane. The bat landed at the Chinese base shown above. The serpent crashed into the South China Sea. YEAR OF THE BAT: 2001
US Navy Patrol Aircraft PR-32 of VQ-1 on a routine mission in Southeast Asia was suddenly accompanied in flight by two Chinese J-8 twin jet fighter aircraft which was not uncommon in this part of the world. PR-32 carried her normal compliment of 24 crewmembers with Lt. Shane Osborn as Plane Commander.
“ The fighter came up under their left wing. This pilot made two very close passes previously that day. He apparently misjudged the intercept and his vertical stabilizer struck the outboard left propeller on the EP-3. The U.S. plane was in straight and level flight on autopilot at the time. The fighter broke into two pieces and plunged into the sea.” said Lt. Osborn
“ The U.S. plane rolled to the left almost inverted, the pilot lost control and they began to lose altitude. The Chinese fighter had knocked off the nose cone causing the aircraft to buffet wildly. The nose cone collided with and damaged the number 4 propeller on the right wing. The pressure vessel was punctured and the EP-3 depressurized. The pitot tube was damaged eliminating airspeed indications in the cockpit,” Osborn stated.
"We were almost upside down & totally out of control," Osborn told us. The dive continued and some crew members donned parachutes. At about 8,000 feet, Osborne regained straight and level flight. They headed for the nearest land……. Hainan Island, China. They made numerous mayday radio calls on internationally recognized emergency frequencies. The Chinese did not respond. The U.S. crew now faced the most difficult landing of their lives.
Somehow, they managed to get the airplane on the ground. Their next immediate task was to destroy the sensitive electronic surveillance equipment aboard the EP-3. Meanwhile the Chinese military had approached the aircraft in vehicles and were yelling at them through loudspeakers to deplane. The next 11 days would be a very uncertain time for them. Note the damage to the aircraft nose and prop! Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co
04/12/2001 HAINAN, China -- The EP-3 aircrew members pose with flight attendants of a commercially chartered airliner before departure for Guam on Thursday, April 12. (U.S. Pacific Command photo by Staff. Sgt. John A. Giles) HAINAN, China -- The EP-3 aircrew members pose with flight attendants of Continental Airlines before departure for Guam on Thursday, April 12, ending their 11 days as Chinese captives. by Staff. Sgt. John A. Giles
“ When we met them, they told us that they had not been abused or mistreated. Their food was adequate and plentiful. On the 4th day, they got some coffee and on the 5th day, some cokes were provided.” Captain Guy Greider, Continental Airlines The Chinese would not allow a military aircraft to pick up the crew. The crew had landed at Lingshui AB but were transported the 200 kilometers to Haikou Airport for the Continental charter team to meet them and fly them out of the Peoples Republic of China.
OVER THE SOUTH CHINA SEA – Navy LTJG Regina Kauffman (navigator) smiles after boarding the Continental Airlines flight bringing her and the other 23 PR-32 crewmembers back from Hainan, China, April 12, 2001 . by Staff. Sgt. John A. Giles
HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- Ensign Richard Bensing raises an American flag after his arrival Thursday at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii after 11 days in China. by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Elizabeth L. Burke
HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii –An anxious crowd stands by to welcome home the EP-3 crew who was released Wednesday after 11 days in China. by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Elizabeth L. Burke
HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- Navy Lt. Shane Osborn, EP-3 mission commander, speaks to the media (in aviator’s language) before he and his crew's departure from Hawaii for their home base on Whidbey Island, Washington. Osborn stated that his crew did everything right during the incident and had nothing to apologize for. by Navy Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Chad McNeeley
HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii --the crew boards a C-9 aircraft en route to Whidbey Island. by Staff Sgt. Sharon Baltazar
The U.S. Navy has awarded Lt. Shane Osborn, the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism. Senior Chief Petty Officer Nicholas Mellos, received the Meritorious Service Medal for exemplary conduct . The remaining 22 crew members were awarded the Air Medal for heroism. Update May 17 2001
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa, Japan -- Lockheed Martin was contracted to perform the disassembly work of PR-32 because the Chinese would not allow it to be repaired and flown out. The AN-124 charter jet departed on the morning of June 16, loaded with the first cargo load of equipment needed to start the recovery operation of the downed EP-3 aircraft that had managed to land without any assistance from the Chinese.
A military cargo plane was not an option for this project, because the Chinese government only authorized the United States to use commercial airlift. Only three companies in the world operate the AN-124 commercially. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co
Every single item that flew into or out of Hainan had to be logged and approved by Chinese Customs authorities. Check out the guy on the right! Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co
The recovery team had to bring in every conceivable piece of equipment and personal supplies to survive for 30 days, “Even our own Gatorade,” said Norris. “ Temporary living quarters for the crew had to be built from scratch with 14,000 pounds of lumber that was flown in, “ said Norris. A U.S. physician was among the crew. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co
Temperatures at Lingshui averaged more than 100 degrees, with humidity above 90%. There also were monsoon rains and winds, said Norris. The first day on the job, the crew drank 160 bottles of water, and “was having a tough time staying hydrated,” he said. (Photo: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co)
In addition to the grueling weather, there was another source of vexation for the crew: constant monitoring by the Chinese. The host country mostly was concerned about the potential damage that the huge AN-124 could inflict on the runway, Norris said. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co
Fire protection services were subcontracted from Hainan Airlines. Lockheed gave away the EP-3’s fuel to the airlines. The fuel was the only item that the crew did not have to pick up and remove. The Chinese government’s marching orders were that “ everything that came in had to go,” said Norris. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co
VQ-1 received the first EP-3E Aries II in 1991 . The squadron played a key role in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm with a 100% mission completion rate. Tasking included strike support, combat search and rescue, and over-the-horizon target support to coalition forces. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co The EP-3E ARIES II aircraft is a four-engine, low-wing, electronic warfare and reconnaissance aircraft utilizing state-of-the-art electronic surveillance equipment and is capable of 12+ hour endurance and 3000+ nautical mile range.
The normal crew complement is 24: 7 officers and 17 enlisted aircrew. The EP-3E typically carries three pilots, one navigator, three tactical evaluators, and one flight engineer. The remainder of the crew is composed of equipment operators, technicians, and mechanics. Not all members of the crew are intelligence specialists. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co
The Lockheed recovery crew took this large plane apart, and flew those parts plus all their own equipment and supplies out of China in only 17days! Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co
The EP-3E is powered by four Allison T56-A-14 turboprop engines, and has a wing span of 99 ft, 8 in., a length of 105 ft, 11 in., and a height of 34 ft, 3 in. There are 24 numbered seating positions, of which 19 are crew stations. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co
The lineage of VQ-1’s "World Watchers" can be traced back to two PBY-5A Catalina "Black Cats" modified for electronic reconnaissance during World War II. The unit was formally established as the Special Electronic Search Project at NAS Sangley Point, Republic of the Philippines, in 1951. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co
Based on the conditions of the airframe, Norris estimated it would take eight months to rebuild the plane. Some of the PR-32’s major components, such as the wings, “are in perfect shape.” But other items, such as the nose, were not recovered, because they had been badly damaged when hit by a Chinese F-8 fighter on April 1,2001. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co
That collision resulted in the death of the fighter pilot and the near-loss of the EP-3E and its crew. The U.S. Navy pilot, Lt. Shane Osborn, according to service reports, managed to pull the plane out of an inverted dive and executed an emergency landing at Lingshui, where the 24-member crew was detained for 11 days. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co
The recovery crew worked through monsoons, rainstorms and tropical heat. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co
(Photo: Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co) Main gear removal in the rain.
(Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co Preparing a nacelle to load.
HAINAN, China – Members of the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. recovery team load the propellers and engines from the EP-3 on to the chartered AN-124 aircraft on June 29. They are performing disassembly work on the EP-3 at Lingshui Airfield in preparation for its return to the United States. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co Loading the AN-124 for one of its 5 loads.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co It took ten sorties—five in and five out of Hainan—to complete the process.
The disassembly of PR-32 began on June 19, when a “key piece of equipment arrived.” That was the “fuselage recovery trailer,” which would make it possible to load the fuselage of the EP-3 into the 124’s cargo bay, and unload it, without bending the metal. It was a customized trailer that Lockheed engineers designed just a few weeks before the trip into Lingshui Airbase. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co
PR-32, along with all the equipment used by the recovery crew, was airlifted away in a giant Russian cargo plane, the Antonov AN-124. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co This EP-3 will fly again. The Chinese would not allow it to be repaired and flown out of China.
The recovery of the EP-3—by a team of about a dozen Lockheed Martin employees and representatives from the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Pacific Command—took place between June 15 and July 5, 2001. Under an agreement with the United States, the Chinese government allowed a maximum of 30 days for the recovery work. The recovery team had to bring in every conceivable piece of equipment and personal supplies to survive for 30 days. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co
Navy Spy Plane Back in Air The damaged U.S. Navy Lockheed EP-3 surveillance plane was repaired in Marietta, and with a few more test flights it will go back into active duty. Now, after 16 months of work by Lockheed Martin employees in Marietta, the Navy surveillance plane severely damaged in a mid-air collision by a Chinese fighter jet last year is flying once more. November, 2002 FINAL SCORE : BAT – 2 , SERPENT - 0 Presentation by Ben Stephens firstname.lastname@example.org