Lakenheath aircrew rescued in Libya

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TWO USAF airmen from RAF Lakenheath were rescued after their fighter bomber crashed in Libya.

The USAF said on Tuesday that the F-15E Strike Eagle, which flew out of Aviano in Italy, developed ‘equipment malfunction’ over north east Libya on Monday night.

A spokesman for the 48th Fighter Wing at Lakenheath said the incident was not due to enemy action and that the crew were unhurt. Their names will not be released until next of kin are informed.

One was rescued by Libyan rebels, the other was picked up by a US Marine Corps Osprey vertical take-off aircraft.

Until the incident the 48th wing refused to say whether its aircraft were in action or at forward bases.

The first USAF aircraft involved in the no-fly action were Boeing KC-135 tankers from RAF Mildenhall which took off early on Sunday morning to refuel NATO aircraft in the first wave of attacks against Col Gaddafi’s air defence systems.

A base spokeswoman said: “RAF Mildenhall’s main effort in the operations over Libya is to provide the unique capability of creating an air refuelling ‘bridge’ to our coalition partners in this international effort.

“Since operations kicked off, RAF Mildenhall KC-135s have off-loaded approximately 800,000 pounds of fuel [about 452,000 litres] to our international partners.”

Among the coalition partners from all over Europe were RAF Tornado GR4 ground attack jets from RAF Marham in Norfolk, a base threatened by Government defence cuts.

Thetford MP Elizabeth Truss, whose constituency includes Marham, said on Tuesday: “The imposition of the no-fly zone has been initiated by forces from RAF Marham which shows how critical this base is to our defences. I made that clear to the Prime Minister yesterday — I saw him in a corridor.”