An F-18 crash in Lakenheath caused the death of a US Marine Corps pilot. The jet came down on farmland in Redmere, near Ely, Cambridgeshire, with the alarm raised at 10:30 BST, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The Hornet aircraft, which had taken off from RAF Lakenheath but was not connected to the base, crashed four miles from RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk. The pilot was the only crew member, police said.
The aircraft was part of fleet of six fighter jets travelling from Bahrain to the base in Miramar, California, a US air force official said. The remaining five FA-18 Hornets safely diverted to the RAF Lossiemouth airfield in north-east Scotland.
Miramar, base of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, said in a statement: “A third Marine aircraft wing FA-18/C Hornet belonging to Marine Attack Fighter Squadron 232 stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar crashed in the vicinity of RAF Lakenheath at approximately 05:30am. “The incident is currently under investigation.”
A witness to the F 18 crash in Lakenheath, Karen Miles-Holdaway, from Redmere, said she thought that the pilot did very well to avoid any houses.
“You could feel the ground move so what I think I heard was probably the impact. My daughter was driving from Littleport and she saw this flash of light and plume of smoke.”
The US ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun, said he was tracking the situation closely.
“We’re grateful for everyone’s concern,” he added.
“The loss in Cambridgeshire today is terrible news, my thoughts and prayers are with all involved.”
Col Robert G Novotny, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath posted on Facebook: “Please keep the families, the unit and the USMC [US Marine Corps] in your thoughts and prayers as we navigate this tragedy.”
Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service said it sent two crews to the crash site, which were stood down within two hours.
“No firefighting or rescue action was required, but they remained on scene in a support capacity,” the spokeswoman said.
The Humber Coastguard said it scrambled its helicopter. The skies above the Fens are very busy.
USAF F-15s are based at RAF Lakenheath and there are big refuelling tankers at RAF Mildenhall. There are our own Tornadoes at RAF Marham and RAF Typhoon jets at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire. As well as routine take-offs and landings, jets fly out over the Fens to get to bombing ranges in the Wash.
Jets also visit two USAF bases or use them as staging posts. Recently we had a visit by A10 tank-busters to Lakenheath.
The F-18s are flown by the US navy and the one that crashed, we understand, had recently been on bombing missions over Syria and was flying temporarily from Suffolk before heading back to the US. Given the amount of activity in the area, accidents are rare.
The last one of note was in October 2014 when an American F-15 came down in farmland near Spalding during a training exercise. It came down near a school but no-one was hurt and the pilot ejected.