The Grumman C-2 Greyhound aircraft dives through the sky, straight toward the sea below.
“Too low,” a digital voice in the cockpit of the carrier-onboard-delivery (COD) aircraft croons. “Pull up.”
That was the first pass.
Minutes later, the COD whirls around and the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush comes back into view. The pilots of the COD make a hard, circular turn around the ship and land the plane, catching cables on the ship’s deck that stop the COD abruptly.
Someone nearby vomits from the force of the landing.
“Welcome to USS Bush,” a sailor shouts to a few journalists as they hop off the aircraft.
Hub for U.S. offensive
Jets from this carrier conducted the first American airstrikes against Islamic State militants in 2014, and two-and-a-half years and thousands of airstrikes later, the Bush is again a hub for the U.S. offensive.
In the first 12 days of the Bush’s counter-IS fight, pilots launching off its deck carried out 184 strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria.
Some experienced Navy pilots, including Lieutenant Commander Scott Welles, flew every day the ship conducted strikes.
“We’re very proud and happy to be out here bringing the fight to those guys,” said Navy pilot Zach Huff, who is on his first deployment abroad.