FBI Seeks Suspects After Laser Hits US Air Force Aircraft in Georgia

Runway of The Air Dominance Center the Sentry Savannah '15 exercise.
Dozens of fighter jets from around the country fill the runway of The Air Dominance Center the Sentry Savannah '15 exercise hosted by Georgia Air National Guard. (Georgia Air National Guard/Master Sgt. George Burnsed)

VIDALIA, Ga. — The FBI is searching for someone who pointed a laser at a military aircraft in March.

Investigators are offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone responsible.

The FBI says that around 9:50 a.m. on March 9, a U.S. Air Force aircraft was deliberately struck by a high-powered laser for about one minute. The laser caused temporary eye damage to a member of the flight crew on the aircraft, which was approaching the Savannah Air National Guard Base.

Investigators believe the laser strike originated from an area northeast of Vidalia.

When aimed at an aircraft, investigators said a beam of light from a laser can travel more than a mile and illuminate a cockpit, disorienting and temporarily blinding pilots.

It's a federal felony to knowingly point the beam of a laser at an aircraft. Federal investigators in Georgia have been active in prosecuting people for using lasers. For example, in 2020, a Rincon man was indicted for aiming a laser pointer at three separate airplanes in 2019 and 2020. In August 2020, a Savannah man was indicted for aiming a laser pointer at a Chatham County police helicopter. Neither man has yet gone to trial.

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