A state-of-the-art fighter jet was washed off the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman and into the Mediterranean Sea by "severe weather" on Friday, according to a Navy news release published on Sunday.
The incident raises questions regarding the type of conditions and capability that may have displaced a jet weighing more than 32,000 pounds.
The F/A-18 Super Hornet jet, which can fly faster than the speed of sound, or up to 1,190 mph, was unmanned.
Additionally, a sailor was hurt at the time "during operations," according to the Navy's report.
The Truman encountered rough weather while executing a "replenishment-at-sea" or resupply mission, the Navy said, which "ended successfully."
A Navy representative did not immediately react to questions regarding the circumstances that may have led to the fighter aircraft's loss of control.
Although the Navy termed the heavy weather as "unexpected," a review of available computer model forecasts from the middle of the previous week showed that there were numerous indications of storminess.
Two days prior, the Defense Department reported that a Super Hornet had broken the sound barrier over the Ionian Sea, which is next to Italy's southeast and part of the Mediterranean.
Before the tragedy, Italy was ravaged by a violent, lengthy heat wave that broke numerous records.
Rome and Florence recorded their warmest June days ever. The heat also contributed to an avalanche in the Italian Alps on July 3 that killed 11 hikers.
On Thursday, however, a strong cold front blew across the country and the Ionian Sea, bringing an end to the heat wave. Computer models recreated ocean waves that reached eight feet in height.
These models also demonstrated a strong zone of low pressure and cold air at high altitudes flowing over the ocean, in stark contrast to the sea's abnormally warm surface temperatures.
According to the Euro-Mediterranean Center for Climate Change, the sea surface temperatures were as much as 7.2 degrees (4 degrees Celsius) above average, meeting the threshold for an ocean heat wave.
The temperature difference between the ocean's surface and the upper atmosphere may have created an environment that was particularly unstable and favorable to thunderstorms.
Intense thunderstorms are renowned for releasing "microbursts" of intense winds that pound into the earth and fan outward. Microburst winds can exceed 100 mph and cause damage comparable to that caused by tornadoes.
In the 1980s and 1990s, microbursts were notoriously responsible for several aviation tragedies, but the development of early-warning systems has virtually eliminated such incidents.