RAF Lakenheath jets in near miss off Norfolk coast

An F-15 from the 48th Fighter Wing at Lakenheath  approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker from Mildenhall's 100th Air Refueling Wing.
(USAF photo by Senior Airman Kate Thornton)
An F-15 from the 48th Fighter Wing at Lakenheath approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker from Mildenhall's 100th Air Refueling Wing. (USAF photo by Senior Airman Kate Thornton)

Two USAF F-15 fighters from RAF Lakenheath came within 500ft of an RAF tanker over the North Sea when a series of safety measures failed, a report has revealed.

The report from the UK Airprox Board says it was surprised the USAF pilots took off having only been told of USAF activity in the air-to-air refuelling area AARA8 off the Norfolk Coast. The USAF told the board it has changed this.

RAF Voyager tanker aircraft 
Picture: MoD Crown Copyright/Sgt Neil Bryden RAF

RAF Voyager tanker aircraft Picture: MoD Crown Copyright/Sgt Neil Bryden RAF

The RAF Voyager tanker had just refuelled two RAF Typhoon fighters when the crew saw the two F-15s and turned away. Its crew told the board that one F-15 climbed steeply in a late avoiding manoeuvre, shaking the tanker with its jet wash.

The report says air traffic controllers were ‘working to capacity’, so did not pass traffic information to the aircraft. They had also misunderstood the area the F-15s were heading for, thinking it was south of AARA8.

The board said F-15 crews had not seen the Voyager on their radar because they were not expecting aircraft in their area and were concentrating on other tasks.