Cryptologic Bytes

"On This Date in History" Calendar

1987: Navy EA-3B recon aircraft crashed in the Mediterranean Sea.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

25 January 1987: An EA-3B Ranger 12 recon aircraft crashed following an operational mission while attempting to make a night landing on the USS Nimitz during blue water operations in the Mediterranean. The weight of the EA-3B made it extremely difficult to land on an aircraft carrier during the day. A night landing made it even more perilous. Returning from what became its final mission, the aircraft made several attempts to catch the arresting gear but was unsuccessful. Running low on fuel, attempts were made to refuel the EA-3B in air, but they, too, failed. A barricade was rigged on the flight deck, but the aircraft hit the barricade too high and it slammed onto the flight deck, skidded, and fell into the sea. The Ranger 12 sank with its seven crew aboard. The crewmen were:

LT Stephen H. Batchelder
LCDR Ronald R. Callander
AT2 Richard A. Herzing
LT Alan A. Levine
CTI3 Patrick R. Price
LT James D. Richards
CTI3 Craig H. Rudolf

Despite this tragic loss, the last of the Navy's Cold War fatalities in the aerial electronic reconnaissance program, the EA-3B remained in frontline service with VQ-1 and VQ-2 until October 1991, serving with distinction in one last conflict, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

The NCM has the one remaining part from Ranger 12 - the Indexer Box (BuNO144850). From the nose landing gear door, and used for night landings - the indexer box was used to provide "Angle of Attack" readings to the landings signals officer.

Read about the EA-3B mission photos featured here in our Acqusitions Section.

A Navy EA-3B Skywarrior was previously on display at National Vigilance Park (just outside of the National Cryptologic Museum at Fort Meade, MD). It was dedicated to the memory of all U.S. Naval aircrews who perished while conducting secret reconnaissance missions around the world. Learn more about the park at the link below. **** Please note Vigilance Park has been dismantled and the aircraft have been removed due to NSA's plans to build a new visitor's center. The Park will be reconstructed when the new museum buildings are built. We apologize for any inconvenience.****


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