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US jet crash: Hunt for pilot as wreckage from Lakenheath F-15 found in sea off English coast

Accident took place during routine training mission, authorities say

Zoe Tidman,Jon Sharman
Monday 15 June 2020 12:11 BST
A US Air Force F-15 fighter jet has crashed off the northeast coast of England
A US Air Force F-15 fighter jet has crashed off the northeast coast of England (AFP via Getty Images)

Wreckage from a US Air Force (USAF) fighter jet that crashed into the sea off the British coast has been found, the service said.

The warplane went down in the North Sea at about 9.40am on Monday during what the US military described as a routine training exercise.

“The cause of the crash is unknown at this time,” 48th Fighter Wing commander Colonel Will Marshall said in a video statement.

The unit’s Twitter account posted a further statement on Monday afternoon, which said: “Search efforts by Her Majesty's Coastguard have located wreckage from the downed F-15C Eagle and recovery efforts are underway. The pilot is still missing, and search and rescue efforts continue.”

The plane was a USAF F-15C Eagle based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk. Lakenheath is the largest of the USAF’s bases in the UK, a network built up by the allies over the course of the Cold War.

HM Coastguard said it had received reports of a plane “going down into the sea 74 nautical miles off Flamborough Head” on the Yorkshire coast. A spokesperson a helicopter had been dispatched from Humberside, as well as two RNLI lifeboats, to aid the search.

“Following a mayday broadcast by HM Coastguard, other vessels nearby are heading to the area,” they added.

The F-15C is a single-seat air superiority fighter that has been in service since 1979. Martin Tinworth, an RAF spokesperson, said the aircraft had an “exceptional flight safety record”.

The 48th Fighter Wing operates a mix of F-15Cs and F-15E Strike Eagles, a multi-role variant which can be used to bomb ground targets. It is known as the Liberty Wing, so named when it was established in France after the Second World War. The unit moved to Lakenheath in the 1960s after Charles de Gaulle ordered the US military out of France.

There are some 4,500 active-duty personnel in the unit supported by a mix of US and UK civilians.

Notable strikes launched from Lakenheath include the 1986 bombing of Tripoli and the August, 1943 attack on V rocket facilities at Peenemunde. The Suffolk site has also served as a base for raids as part of the global war on terror.

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