Duelling fighter jet dogfight ends in near miss

One of the images of the American F-15 jets captured by reader Andy Rowan from Deeping St Nicholas.
One of the images of the American F-15 jets captured by reader Andy Rowan from Deeping St Nicholas.
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STARTLED onlookers were left fearing the worst as two jet fighter aircraft appeared to come close to colliding during a mock battle exercise in the skies above Deeping St James.

Villagers held their breath as the pair of multi-million pound American F-15 jets circled the skies above their homes at high speed for about 10 minutes.

Witnesses say the spectacle ended when the pilots appeared to narrowly avoid a crash before then heading off back to the American air base at RAF Lakenheath, in Suffolk.

Now a Deeping St James councillor has called for an investigation into the incident, which happened above Deeping St Nicholas, on Wednesday about 3.30pm.

Aircraft enthusiast and trainee pilot Andy Rowan, of Deeping St Nicholas, took this stunning photograph – and the one on the front page – in the skies above his home.

Mr Rowan, who has 22 hours flying experience, said: “When I heard the jets I ran out to see if I could get a picture. I was amazed because they were throwing themselves all over the place doing afterburn turns and stall turns.

“They then went at each other really quickly and then pulled out. All of a sudden they slowed down and stopped the acrobatics. It was as if they realised what had happened and thought it best to stop.

“I knew it was close at the time but it wasn’t until I put my pictures on the computer that I realised just how close.

“I’ve been to a few aeroplane shows and seen many stunts but I’ve never seen anything that close.”

The fighter jets, thought to cost about $30 million each, operate from US Air Force 492D Fighter Squadron at RAF Lakenheath.

Philip Dilks, chairman of Deeping St James parish council, who has lived in the village for 30 years, said: “We get the occasional jet screaming over the village but it’s not a constant problem. But I have to say if there has been an incident it needs investigating and I’m sure the authorities will let us know either way.”

An RAF Lakenheath spokesman: “Two F-15 jets were training in the area. They were doing close pass training. I imagine from the ground it looks pretty close but in reality they are not within 500 ft of each other. It is fairly common training.”

A spokesman for the Airprox Board, which investigates near misses, said a near miss depends on the planes involved, circumstances and conditions at the time. Pilots and air traffic control will say if they feel comfortable about an incident before deciding on an investigation.