The US Air Force (USAF) has taken the step of advising their UK-based fighter pilots that they need to keep their cockpit windows clean after a series of narrowly-avoided, mid-air collisions.
The BBC reports that USAF F-15 jets based at the Royal Air Force (RAF) base in Lakenheath, Suffolk, were involved in 19 near misses with UK aircraft in the past five years. One of the most serious incidents took place in January 2017, when two F-15s and an RAF Voyager tanker came within seconds of a mid air crash. The RAF pilot claimed one of the US F-15s flew as close as 50m (160ft) before roaring past to avoid a collision.
An investigation by the UK Airprox Board found that the F-15 pilot was unaware of the Voyager until it was too late, concluding that there was a “serious risk of collision” and that “luck had played a major part” in averting disaster. The incident was classified as a Category A, the highest and most serious classification.
A manual for USAF pilots at RAF Lakenheath instructs them to keep their windscreens clean and to "consciously note how much time you spend looking outside the cockpit.”
"Sometimes little things like keeping your screen clean can make the difference,” a USAF spokesman told the BBC. On Monday, a USAF training jet crashed in Texas, killing the pilot and injuring another. The two-seater, T-38 Talon jet crashed about 4pm local time, roughly 14 miles (22.5 km) northwest of Laughlin Air Base.