Every satellite picture I've ever seen of carriers in port usually shows a lot of equipment on the flight deck, presumably involved with servicing and overhauling the ship between cruises. This example is from NAS North Island in San Diego.

enter image description here

A closer inspection of the stern of the ship shows what appears to be a derelict F-18 airframe parked on the flight deck and stripped of its engines, LE and TE flaps.

enter image description here

Usually the airwing is launched back to naval air stations on shore prior to the ship reaching port, then fly out again to trap aboard when the ship goes out to sea again and this jet doesn't exactly look flight ready. What exactly is this aircraft used for? Is it some kind of training device for shipmates or aircraft handlers or for training on firefighting techniques?

  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Looks like an F-18 in folded-wing configuration. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 6:04
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I was deployed on the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2005. This is most likely an old airframe used for firefighting and damage control training. A closer/clearer picture would be nice, but it likely doesn't have engines and may be missing other parts. $\endgroup$
    – Steve
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 12:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It's so people know it's still an aircraft carrier when sans air arm. $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 3:32

2 Answers 2


While I'm not sure about the condition of the aircraft, there are uses for a non-flight worthy aircraft in a carrier deck. For example, the crash and salvage team can train salvaging the aircraft, or the sailors can train craning the aircraft abroad the deck.

For example, in the image below, U.S. Navy sailors use a crash and salvage crane to lift a non-functional McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet during flight deck drills aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76).

Lifting aircraft

By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Nelson - This Image was released by the United States Navy with the ID 150415-N-WO404-124 (next).This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.

It may also be used for firefighting and damage control training, as can be seen in the image below.


Sailors assigned to the crash and salvage crew on USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) spray foam on an F/A-18 Hornet training aircraft during a firefighting drill; image from warbirdsnews.com, credited to USN

The article notes:

Since active jets are precious assets, they use specially-prepared training airframes, like grounded F-18 Hornets ... these former frontline fighters are often antiquated models of current equipment or planes that have been damaged beyond the point of repair. These days the trainers are usually represented by earlier models of the F-18 whose variant has been retired, ... (they serve) as training aids for firefighting and crash retrieval and salvage operations, letting crews hone their skills using real world items, without risking damage to expensive operational flyers

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. That's what I had thought. I wonder if the airframe is carried during cruise, usually stowed in the hangar deck, and placed on the lid in port to remove clutter below. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Carlo looks like... The linked article mentions it.. $\endgroup$
    – aeroalias
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah it appears be be a derelict F-18 airframe used for crash and fire training drills. I’d guess, for whatever reason, the jet became unairworthy, so they cannibalized it for spares and then used the stripped airframe for this training role. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 15:55

That is an F-18 with its wings folded up. See this photo:

enter image description here

Actually, upon closer inspection, it appears that the leading edge and flaps have been removed:

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Oh I’m aware of what kind of an airplane it is. I just wanted to know the purpose of a non-flyable airframe on the ship was. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 15:53

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .