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USAF Mildenhall: Special operations jet gets in row with RAF pilot over the Norfolk skies

PUBLISHED: 13:14 13 May 2014 | UPDATED: 13:59 13 May 2014

RAF Mildenhall USAF airfield

. Photo: Mike Page

RAF Mildenhall USAF airfield . Photo: Mike Page

A jet from USAF Mildenhall became embroiled in a mid-air row with an RAF pilot over the skies of Norfolk, according to a new report.

The pilot of an American MC-130 transport craft - part of the base’s 352nd Special Operations Group - filed a near-miss report about a Tornado GR4 fighter, claiming it came too close to parachutists it had dropped during an exercise near the village of Sculthorpe last November.

After the US pilot radioed a warning to the British fighter, the Tornado pilot radioed back that he “had every right to be here” according to a UK AirProx Board (UKAB) review of the incident.

The aircraft came within two miles of each other at their closest point, according to the UKAB, which investigates near-misses.

The USAF pilot claimed there was a “high” risk to the parachutists during the incident.

But the RAF pilot, flying one of several Tornados in the area on November 7, told the UKAB they had been visible at all times and the severity of the incident was “low”. Local military air traffic control reported it as “negligible”.

The UKAB report said the USAF pilot was “clearly frustrated by the continued presence of the Tornados” but it had determined there was no risk to the parachutists.

Some members of the investigation board felt the Tornado pilots could have been more flexible, it said.

It added: “However, members felt that the mismatch in perception could quite easily have been prevented with the application of effective co-ordination between these two units who both commonly use the busy East Anglian airspace.”

The 352nd unit has five squadrons and two different versions of MC-130 aircraft assigned, as well as CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, the first of which arrived in June 2013 and have prompted complaints from residents over noise.

Members of the unit have been involved in operations such as Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.

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