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US F-15 fighter jet nearly collides with balloon at 21,000 feet over UK airspace: Report

The F-15EX, the Air Force’s newest fighter aircraft, arrives to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida March 11. (U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Karissa Rodriguez/Released)
March 16, 2022

A U.S. fighter jet nearly collided with a balloon with over the United Kingdom in November last year, a new report revealed this week.

According to the Daily Mail, the pilot of the American F-15 was forced to “aggressively” maneuver away from the “large balloon” that was floating in UK airspace. The balloon was roughly 50 feet away from the jet and approximately four miles above ground.

The incident took place off the coast of East Riding of Yorkshire on November 5. The UK Airprox Board said the pilot noted the collision risk was “high.”

“’The F15 pilot reports that they saw a large balloon bloom in the Head Up Display at 21,000ft,” the report stated. “They aggressively banked to the left to avoid. They then made a call on the radio to avoid the location of the balloon.”

“In the Board’s opinion the reported altitude or description of the object were sufficient to indicate that it was probably a balloon,” it continued.

“The Board considered that the pilot’s overall account of the incident portrayed a situation where safety had been much reduced below the norm to the extent that safety had not been assured,” the report added.

The 48th Fighter Wing is the only U.S. F-15 fighter wing in Europe.

Last week, three U.S. F-15 fighter jets made emergency landings at RAF Lakenheath base in England. Two of the emergencies were attributed to faulty hydraulic systems, Air Force Times reported. The third emergency was photographed suffering an unknown mechanical failure while landing. 

In 2020, a U.S. Air Force F-15C fighter jet crashed in the North Sea, killing 1st Lt. Kenneth “Kage” Allen, assistant chief of weapons and tactics for the 493rd Fighter Squadron.

Allen was flying the F-15 fighter jet in a routine training mission when the crash occurred

Allen was assigned to the 493d Fighter Squadron, nicknamed “The Grim Reapers,” which is part of the 48th Fighter Wing “Liberty Wing” stationed at RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom, approximately 80 miles northeast of London.

An Air Force report released November 2020 later determined the cause of the crash was pilot error as Allen experienced “reduced visibility” and “spatial disorientation” due to “multiple cloud layers in the airspace.”

Allen was part of an exercise involving nine F-15Cs and one F-15D, and other pilots involved in the exercise told investigators “the horizon was difficult if not impossible to discern below 9,000ft.”