Fighter jet from RAF Lakenheath crashes in North Sea
- Credit: Archant
A fighter jet based at RAF Lakenheath has crashed in the North Sea.
The air base confirmed a US Air Force F-15C Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing had crashed at approximately 9.40am on Monday (June 15) morning.
At the time of the accident, the aircraft was on a routine training mission with a single pilot on board.
The pilot’s status and the cause of the crash are currently unknown.
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.
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“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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In a video message, Colonel Will Marshall, the 48th Fighter Wing commander, said they remained hopeful that their Liberty Wing airman would be located and recovered.
He said: “At approximately 9.30am local time this morning, one of our F-15C fighter aircraft crashed into the sea during a routine training mission.
“The cause of the crash is unknown at this time. Search and rescue efforts are currently underway but the pilot of the aircraft is still missing.”
HM Coastguard is coordinating the response after reports were received of the 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.
“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 had 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 were worth an estimated £700m 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.