RAF Lakenheath fighter jet crashes into North Sea – status of pilot unknown

An F-15C from RAF Lakenheath has crashed into the sea on a routine training mission. The status of t

An F-15C from RAF Lakenheath has crashed into the sea on a routine training mission. The status of the pilot on board is unknown. Picture: Gary Stedman (library photo) - Credit: citizenside.com

Search and rescue teams have been sent to the North Sea after a US Air Force F-15C from RAF Lakenheath crashed on a routine training mission, with the status of the pilot unknown.

The pilot of the F-15C Eagle from RAF Lakenheath which crashed in the North Sea has died Picture:U

The pilot of the F-15C Eagle from RAF Lakenheath which crashed in the North Sea has died Picture:US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Madeline Herzog (library picture) - Credit: US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Ma

The 48th Fighter Wing jet was carrying one pilot on board and crashed at approximately 9.40am today off the north-east coast of England.

A spokesman for the 48th Fighter Wing, based at RAF Lakenheath, said: “A US Air Force F-15C Eagle crashed at approximately 9.40am today in the North Sea.

“The aircraft was from the 48th Fighter Wing, RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom.

“At the time of the accident, the aircraft was on a routine training mission with one pilot on board. The cause of the crash as well as the status of the pilot are unknown at this time and UK Search and Rescue have been called to support.”

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HM Coastguard is coordinating the response after reports were received of an aircraft going down into the sea 74 nautical miles off Flamborough Head.

A spokesman said: “The HM Coastguard helicopter from Humberside has been sent along with Bridlington and Scarborough RNLI lifeboats. Following a Mayday broadcast by HM Coastguard, other vessels nearby are heading to the area.

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“It’s believed the aircraft had one person on board. We have no further information at this time.”

The F15C, a single-seater air defence fighter, is a model of jet that has been used by the US Air Force since 1979.

RAF spokesman Martin Tinworth said the aircraft has an “exceptional flight safety record”.

RAF Lakenheath is the USAF’s only F-15 fighter wing in Europe, with both F-15E and F-15C fighters providing air combat capability.

Along with its USAF neighbours at RAF Mildenhall, a 2016 report said the two bases are worth an estimated £700million a year to Forest Heath, Breckland, St Edmundsbury and East Cambridgeshire.

There are an estimated 15,400 jobs - 6,500 taken by local people - and they have major effect on the supply chain locally and nationally.

US personnel and their families are a familiar sight in nearby towns such as Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket - many live off-base, mainly in privately-rented accomodation.

In October 2014, an F15D fighter jet based at RAF Lakenheath crashed in fields near Spalding in Lincolnshire.

The pilot ejected safely, suffering only minor injuries, and no-one on the ground was hurt.

A US Air Force investigation found that the crash was caused by the “angle of attack” of the aircraft and “imperfections” in the assembly of the jet’s nose cap.

In October 2015, US pilot Major Taj Sareen died when his F-18 Hornet jet crashed on farmland near RAF Lakenheath.

A subsequent investigation found the 34-year-old did not report problems with his aircraft before take-off.

In January 2014, four people died after bird strikes caused a Lakenheath-based helicopter to crash near Cley, Norfolk.

Capt Christopher Stover, Capt Sean Ruane, Tech Sgt Dale Mathews and Staff Sgt Afton Ponce were on a training mission in a HH-60G Pave Hawk, which was part of 48th Fighter Wing.

The Accident Investigation Branch said the geese strikes “rendered” both the pilot and co-pilot unconscious.

MORE: US fighter jets forced to ‘take action’ in high-speed near miss

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