Pilot of downed RAF Lakenheath jet found dead
The pilot of a downed fighter jet based at RAF Lakenheath has been found dead.
The US Air Force F-15C Eagle, from the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, crashed at about 9.40am today while on a training mission.
Fears had been growing for the missing pilot, who had been taking part in a four-jet formation 74 miles off the coast Flamborough Head in Yorkshire, after search and rescue crews found wreckage in the North Sea earlier today.
Col Will Marshal, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing, said the cause of the crash was unknown.
"It is with a very heavy heart I confirm the pilot of the downed F-15C Eagle has been located and confirmed deceased," he said.
"Out of respect for the family and their privacy during this incredibly difficult time we will not release the name of the pilot until after all next of kin notifications have been completed.
"This is a tragic loss for the 48th Fighter Wing community and our deepest condolences go out to the pilots family and the 439rd fighter squadron."
Earlier today a huge rescue effort was launched for the Suffolk-based airman, with US Air Force plans and RNLI lifeboats searching the area.
Matt Hancock, West Suffolk MP, said the crash was a 'terrible tragedy'.
"I pay tribute to the search and recover personnel that have been deployed to the scene," he said.
"Having flown with 48th fighter wing, I know what a community it is, and I know what a blow this will be to the community in Lakenheath, military colleagues, and of course the pilot’s family.
"On behalf of all residents of West Suffolk, I want to thank every member of USAF based locally for their service and their sacrifice in defence of our freedom, which we value so highly. My thoughts are with you all."
The fighter jet is part of the US Air Force 493rd Fighter Squadron - the only F-15C squadron in Europe.
The F-15C, a single-seater air defence fighter, is a model of jet that has been used by the US Air Force since 1979.
The 48th Fighter Wing, which has operated from RAF Lakenheath since 1960, has more than 4,500 'active-duty military members'.