US Air Force slam “malicious” use of lasers after RAF Lakenheath incident
17:37 04 March 2016
The US Air Force has criticised the “irresponsible and malicious” use of lasers after one of its pilots was targeted while attempting to land at RAF Lakenheath.
While the F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet was able to land safely despite the incident, the USAF have warned of potentially disastrous consequences.
A spokesman for 48th Fighter Wing, based at RAF Lakenheath, said the incident had been a “serious risk to flight safety”.
“On Wednesday evening, our aircrew were momentarily disoriented when a laser was directed at their F-15E Strike Eagle while on approach to land at RAF Lakenheath,” they said.
“While it did appear to be coming from the ground, it wasn’t flashed into our pilot’s eyes. The aircrew saw what they recognized to be a laser reflecting off the aircraft. “If you can imagine a laser pointer, that’s what our aircrew saw, only it was amplified in intensity and size.”
They added the USAF investigate every ground-based laser incident.
“The Ministry of Defence was notified immediately of the event and they dispatched a patrol to the known incident location,” they said. “Aiming a laser at an aircraft is a serious risk to flight safety. Many high-powered lasers can completely incapacitate pilots while flying.
“The irresponsible or malicious use of lasers can threaten the lives of aircrew, passengers, and even individuals on the ground should it result in an aircraft crash.
“Not only does the misuse of laser devices pose a serious threat to aviation safety, but it is also a criminal offence.”
The USAF fly two F-15E Strike Eagle squadrons from the base.
The reports follow calls from the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) to class laser pointers as “offensive weapons”.
Just two weeks ago, a Virgin Atlantic flight heading to New York from Heathrow Airport had to turn back after a laser beam was shone into the cockpit.
The pilot was taken ill after sending a distress call – lasers can temporarily blind them.
At the time, Balpa’s general secretary Jim McAuslan said lasers were “incredibly dangerous”.
During 2015, some 882 incidents involving lasers at airports were reported by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).