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Air Force Fighters Disappear After Training Mission in ScotlandAired March 26, 2001 - 11:27 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Now to the latest story we've been keeping a close eye on. The search is still on for two F-15 fighter jets said to be missing during a training mission over Scotland today. We're going to go back to our CNN's military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon for the latest on the search -- Jamie.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, after some initial confusion, Pentagon officials do confirm that two U.S. Air Force F-15Cs that were scheduled to conduct low-level training on the range in Northern Scotland failed to return to their base at Lakenheath, England, at their appointed time. As the planes were overdue and there was no contact with them, the Royal Air Force in Great Britain has launched a search-and-rescue operation. It is feared but not known that the planes could have crashed in Scotland.
Again, these two plane -- these are single-seat F-15. These are air-to-air fighters, not the kind that are equipped to attack ground targets, but air-to-air planes with a single pilot in each one -- were supposed to be conducting some low-level training where the planes fly low against the terrain. There is some rugged terrain in Northern Scotland, although I'm not aware of exactly the location where these planes were training, and the problem is they have not come back to base.
So, again, two F-15Cs missing. One pilot in each plane. A search is underway. The fear is that they may have crashed, but, at this point, Pentagon officials say they have no way of knowing what happened to the planes -- Kyra.
PHILLIPS: And they did -- they found out that they were missing because they lost complete radar contact? Is that right, Jamie?
MCINTYRE: Well, they were supposed to arrive back at their base at a particular point. It's been almost two hours now since they were supposed to arrive back at Lakenheath, and they did not show up. I'm not clear whether they were tracking them on radar the whole time or whether they would have been tracked by, for instance, commercial air- traffic controllers. But they did not return to base at their appointed time.
Once they were overdue, there was attempts to contact them and find them. They couldn't find them. Then they were declared missing. Now a search is underway. PHILLIPS: Jamie, before we let you go, what else do you know about this fighter squadron?
MCINTYRE: Well, these are just some of the -- the U.S. planes that are based in England. The United States, of course, is a close ally of Great Britain and Great Britain has allowed the United States to base planes there and did, in fact, during the war in Kosovo when NATO planes attacked Kosovo.
The U.S. Air Force is a regular feature of the air base at Lakenheath, which is just outside London, England, and these planes, which are F-15s, some of the United States Air Force's most capable air-to-air fighters, were supposed to be conducting essentially routine training.
Now when I say routine, that doesn't mean its without risk because these low-level flights, particularly when planes are flying in pairs, if one pilot makes a mistakes, often the wingman is following the lead plane -- you can have a tragic accident in which case -- an instance in which one plane essentially follows the other to its death.
But again, it's way too early to say what happened to these two planes. All we can say is that they were supposed to be back at base by now and they're not and the search is under way.
PHILLIPS: All right, two U.S. fighter jets still missing right now after a training exercise in the Scottish Highlands. Our Jamie McIntyre, thanks for the update. We'll continue to follow the story and check in with you, Jamie.
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