US fighter jet crashes into North Sea during training exercise off coast of England

A pilot is missing after an American fighter jet crashed into the North Sea while on a training exercise off the north-east coast of England.

The US Air Force F-15C Eagle, from the 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, crashed at around 9.40am on Monday with one pilot on board.

A search and rescue operation is under way to find the missing US Air Force pilot.

The 48th Fighter Wing said in a statement: “At the time of the accident, the aircraft was on a routine training mission with one pilot on board.

“The cause of the crash as well as the status of the pilot are unknown at this time, and UK Search and Rescue have been called to support.”

The F15C, a single-seater air defence fighter, is a model of jet that has been used by the US Air Force since 1979.

An F-15C Eagle assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing has crashed into the North Sea (PA)

RAF spokesman Martin Tinworth said the aircraft has an "exceptional flight safety record".

HM Coastguard said in a statement that it received reports of a plane "going down into the sea 74 nautical miles off Flamborough Head" on the Yorkshire coast.

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"The HM Coastguard helicopter from Humberside has been sent along with Bridlington and Scarborough RNLI lifeboats," a spokesman said.

"Following a Mayday broadcast by HM Coastguard, other vessels nearby are heading to the area."

Earlier on Monday, RAF Lakenheath tweeted an image of three fighter jets in the sky.

The US Air Force said the pilot is still missing.

In a video statement, Colonel Will Marshall, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath, said the cause of the crash was “unknown”, adding: “Search-and-rescue efforts are currently under way, but the pilot of the aircraft is still missing.

Colonel Will Marshall, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath, issued a statement on Monday after the crash (PA)

“We will provide updates as they become available while prioritising respect and consideration for the pilot’s family.”

He said they remained hopeful the pilot will be found.

RAF Lakenheath is the "largest US Air Force-operated base in England and the only US air forces in Europe F15 fighter wing", its website says.

The 48th Fighter Wing, which has operated from the base since 1960, has more than 4,500 "active-duty military members".

The US fighter jet which crashed into the North Sea was based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk (PA)

Its mission statement is to "provide worldwide responsive combat air power and support".

In October 2014, an F15D fighter jet based at RAF Lakenheath crashed in fields near Spalding in Lincolnshire.

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The pilot ejected safely, suffering only minor injuries, and no one on the ground was hurt.

A US Air Force investigation found that the crash was caused by the "angle of attack" of the aircraft and "imperfections" in the assembly of the jet's nose cap.

In October 2015, US pilot Major Taj Sareen died when his F-18 Hornet jet crashed on farmland near RAF Lakenheath.

A subsequent investigation found the 34-year-old did not report problems with his aircraft before take-off.

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