US F-15 Lakenheath crew 'disorientated' after laser targeting

Image source, USAF
Image caption,
An F-15 Strike Eagle similar to this was targeted by a laser on Wednesday night

The crew of a US fighter jet were "momentarily disorientated" when a laser beam was directed at the plane as it landed in Suffolk.

The US Air Force confirmed the beam was pointed at one of its F-15 Strike Eagle jets as it approached RAF Lakenheath on Wednesday night.

A spokeswoman said although the green light did not hit any of the crew in the eyes they were temporarily disorientated.

The jet landed safely, she said.

"The aircrew saw what they recognised to be a laser reflecting off the aircraft.

"If you can imagine a laser pointer, that's what our aircrew saw, only it was amplified in intensity and size," the spokeswoman said.

Directing a laser at a jet could cause a plane to crash resulting in casualties not just to the crew but to members of the public on the ground, she warned.

Image source, USAF
Image caption,
Directing lasers at planes could have disastrous consequences, the USAF said

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said targeting military aircraft with lasers was "rare", but added: "Such attacks jeopardise flight safety and are a civil offence.

"These events are recorded and reported to the civilian police for action."

'Dazzle or distract'

Between January 2009 and June 2015 more than 8,998 laser incidents were reported to the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

Last month a Virgin Atlantic flight heading to New York turned back to London Heathrow Airport after a laser beam was shone into the cockpit.

The airline said it was a "precautionary measure" after the co-pilot reported feeling unwell.

Under article 222 of the Air Navigation Order 2009 offenders can charged with "shining a light at an aircraft in flight so as to dazzle or distract the pilot".

Between 2010 and 2014, 199 people were convicted of the offence in the UK.

It is not an offence to possess a laser, but the National Police Air Service wants stronger laws in the UK to crack down on the purchase and use of lasers.

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