Laser 'Disoriented' F-15 Crew Landing at RAF Lakenheath

Members of 492nd Fighter Squadron secure themselves in an F-15E Strike Eagle prior to their departure from RAF Lakenheath. (Air Force/Lee Osberry)
Members of 492nd Fighter Squadron secure themselves in an F-15E Strike Eagle prior to their departure from RAF Lakenheath. (Air Force/Lee Osberry)

Crew members of a US F-15E Strike Eagle were "momentarily disoriented" by a laser beam directed at the fighter jet as it was preparing to land at RAF Lakenheath in England, posing a "serious risk" to flight safety, Air Force officials said.

"On Wednesday evening, our aircrew were momentarily disoriented when a laser was directed at their F-15E Strike Eagle while on approach to land at RAF Lakenheath," a spokeswoman for the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, told British media. The laser was not flashed into the pilot's eyes and the plane landed safely.

The aircrew saw what they recognized to be a laser reflecting off the aircraft," the spokeswoman said. "If you can imagine a laser pointer, that's what our aircrew saw, only it was amplified in intensity and size."

The British Defense Ministry was notified and a patrol was dispatched to the location, the Eastern Daily Press and Cambridge News reported Friday.

"Aiming a laser at an aircraft is a serious risk to flight safety. Many high-powered lasers can completely incapacitate pilots while flying," the spokeswoman said. "The irresponsible or malicious use of lasers can threaten the lives of aircrew, passengers, and even individuals on the ground should it result in an aircraft crash."

The British Defense Ministry said such "attacks" on aircraft "are a civil offense," the BBC reported. "These events are recorded and reported to the civilian police for action."

Last month, a Virgin Atlantic Flight from London's Heathrow airport en route to New York had to turn back after a laser beam hit the cockpit.

The British Airline Pilots Association, BALPA, subsequently called for handheld lasers to be classified as offensive weapons.

"Aircraft are attacked with lasers at an alarming rate and with lasers with ever-increasing strength," BALPA said. "Modern lasers have the power to blind, and certainly to act as a huge distraction and to dazzle the pilots during critical phases of flight."

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