Sooo. Say I know someone who came into ownership of a decommissioned F18 Tailhook from an ex navy pilot that was left on a property during a land sale. I’ve seen similar ones in better condition for sale online for around $24,000. How would I find out if this is:

  1. A Tailhook of an F18 (it looks just like the ones in videos),
  2. Legal to own or still property of the US Navy?
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your question! It seems like you actually have three different questions here. The first one, how to identify whether it is indeed an F18 tailhook, is definitely on-topic here. The second one, whether or not it is legal to own, might fit on law.stackexchange.com , but if you go there, it's quite possible that you'll just be told to hire a lawyer (tbh that is a good idea). For the third question, an aviation forum might be a better choice; it doesn't really fit the Q&A format of Stack Exchange. $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Commented Apr 24, 2023 at 21:33
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall I don't doubt your story, but I wouldn't attempt to export your tailhook as it's a controlled item on the US Munitions List (Title 22/Chapter 1/Subchapter M/Part 121). It lists under Category VIII-Aircraft and Related Articles, para (h) Parts, components, accessories, attachments, associated equipment and systems, as follows: subpara. (5) On-aircraft arresting gear (e.g., tail hooks and drag chutes) and specially designed parts and components therefor; $\endgroup$
    – Gerry
    Commented Apr 24, 2023 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ Hello MrsYowell, welcome to aviation.stackexchange.com. Try to make focussed questions to get focuessed answers. If you want an answer to your first question, please include a photo of the thing. I removed the question about its value; the navy is not going to buy it from someone's garden, there are no privately owned F-18s as far as I know and thus the item will not be used on an aircraft again. The value is the scrap metal price or whatever someone is willing to pay for it. This is not an auction site, so the question about the value does not fit here. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 7:49
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall No problem. I didn't provide an answer as I don't have a complete answer. Being on the USML, just means it would be illegal if you were a foreign national and did not have a license from the State Dept. Despite that, I've seen plenty of odd stuff at Property Disposal. It is plausible that it was obtained legally. $\endgroup$
    – Gerry
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 22:20

3 Answers 3


Captain Obvious here. You should ask the Navy. To be more precise, my first point of contact would be NAVAIR. They surely will advice you further if they do not have the answer readily available.

Possible way to ask about is that you/person X have come across the particular part on the premises you/person X have acquired, and you wish to know what to do with the part.

Please note that embargos related to sales of military materiel are not that uncommon. A close example is the sales ban of F-14 parts to any other party than museums. The fact that a part is decommissioned does not mean it is free to sell or possess by civilians.

For argument's sake, there is of course the option for this someone to FAFO, and just flip the tailhook on ebay for easy $10k. I personally would not have the balls for that.


Your best bet for determining which aircraft this came from is probably to look for a stamped number somewhere on the part and do a search by National Stock Number.

These parts do wear out after some number of arrested landings, and once the hook point fails inspection with a Go/No-Go gauge they are scrapped. At sea they are likely to be pitched overboard, while ashore they would likely end up in a scrap bin somewhere.

Military bases used to have a local Defense Reutilization Marketing Office, (DRMO) where civilians could go to purchase surplus military items, but these sort of activities have been largely consolidated under the Defense Logistics Agency, (DLA).

Items with some purpose are evaluated, de-milled if required, and either dispositioned for auction or disposal. With such a specialized function, (and being on the munitions list as I point out below...) it is highly unlikely that tail hooks are ever offered to the public. Any person in possession of one likely got it outside of approved channels.

While obtaining a tail hook outside of DLA would run afoul of normal administrative procedures, it is very unlikely that simply having one in your possession would be illegal, especially if it was acquired in the course of a legal property transaction vs getting caught dumpster diving on base.

If you were to sell it, however, it would be illegal to export under current Export Administration Regulations, (EAR).

Title 22, Chapter 1, Subchapter M, Part 121.1, of the United States Munitions List, under Category VIII—Aircraft and Related Articles, sub-section (h) states:

(1) Parts, components, accessories, and attachments specially designed for the following U.S.-origin aircraft: The B–1B, B–2, B–21, F–15SE, F/A–18 E/F, EA–18G, F–22, F–35, and future variants thereof; or the F–117 or U.S. Government technology demonstrators. Parts, components, accessories, and attachments of the F–15SE and F/A–18 E/F that are common to earlier models of these aircraft, unless listed in paragraph (h) of this category, are subject to the EAR.

It goes on to specify in more detail:

(5) On-aircraft arresting gear (e.g., tail hooks and drag chutes) and specially designed parts and components therefor

It is worth noting that the aircraft models listed are all in the current US DoD inventory, so it is very possible this restriction will be lifted once the aircraft are decommissioned.

P.S. Regarding your since deleted bullet about value, I actually messaged the guy asking $24K to ask how he came up with this price since it's identical to one I have. He laughed and said he didn't really want to get rid of it for sentimental reasons, but that he would take that for it. So your comparison does not make for a fair estimate with something as niche as this. And market value only has any meaning when there is a transaction to prove someone will pay some amount.

  • $\begingroup$ Excellent answer mr Hall! Regarding the price, for such a rare item, the correct price is usually stupid high. If the history of the said hook was traceable (and it should be), the documents attainable, and they showed actual combat duty, ask might aswell be twice as high. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 16:42

I’ve never heard of any laws against owning an arrestor hook. I don’t think possession of such a device violates export or ITAR laws - check with a lawyer who specializes in such things for further detail. As to whether it remains the property of the United States government, you may check and see if the original owner possessed a bill of sale from the government for this item. It’s also possible that it was an expendable item or damaged during its use, and it was about to be discarded by the military when its previous owner picked it up and kept it. In which case, I don’t see how the US Government could claim ownership of device anymore.

  • $\begingroup$ Never having heard of any law regarding anything is hardly a valid point to guild upon. That being said, it is impossible to know the whole law, since as per the internet, the United States Code is made up of 54 titles, and each title contains multiple chapters and sections. In total, the Code contains over 52,000 sections, comprising more than 22 million words. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 5:34
  • $\begingroup$ Which is why I put a note saying consult with an attorney if you are unsure. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 5:43
  • $\begingroup$ Which, with all due respect, kinda voids this answer. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 7:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Jpe61 In the U.S., everything's legal unless there's a law against it. The only difference between this answer and the same answer coming from a lawyer is that the lawyer presumably knows more laws, so "I haven't heard of such a law" would carry more weight coming from them. $\endgroup$
    – TypeIA
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 8:17
  • $\begingroup$ Again: not knowing something is illegal is not an argument one should use in court if one happens to break a law... $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 9:44

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