- A US Air Force fighter wing is asking people to stop aiming laser pointers at its aircraft.
- The UK-based fighter wing said this activity poses a “serious threat to flight safety.”
- It’s not the first time the US military has been forced to ask the public to stop doing this.
A US Air Force fighter wing based in the UK published an advisory asking people to stop pointing lasers at its aircraft.
The 48th Fighter Wing out of RAF Lakenheath said on Thursday that there have been recent incidents of laser pointers being aimed at fighter aircraft during flight operations, raising “significant concerns.”
“This dangerous activity, known as ‘lasing,’ poses a serious threat to flight safety,” the fighter wing wrote in a media advisory. “These actions not only endanger the lives of pilots and crew but create a hazard to the towns, villages, and homes underneath the approach corridor to RAF Lakenheath.”
“While a surface-to-air lasing incident is always a hazard for aircrew’s near-term vision & long-term optical health, it becomes a critical hazard that impacts safe operation of the aircraft at low altitude,” the fighter wing said, adding that the action carries potential legal ramifications.
Located 70 miles northeast of London, RAF Lakenheath is the largest US Air Force-operated base in England with over 4,700 military personnel. It’s also the only base under US Air Forces in Europe that operates F-35A and F-15E fighter jets.
The 48th Fighter Wing’s advisory on Thursday is not the first time that the US military has asked the public not to point lasers at aircraft in flight. In 2022, for example, the 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico said doing so could be “catastrophic” for aircrew and possibly people on the ground.
“Contrary to what laser users may think, the devices’ compact size, easy availability, and widespread ownership can make hand-held lasers, such as the pointers used in classrooms, significantly dangerous to aircrews,” the 58th said in a statement at the time. It said the FBI emphasizes that “lasing an aircraft in flight is a federal crime, punishable by $250,000 fines and up to five years of imprisonment.”
It is unclear what the recent incidents were at RAF Lakenheath, but back in 2016 at the airbase, there was actually an incident in which the aircrew of an F-15E Strike Eagle was “momentarily disoriented” by a laser.
A spokeswoman for the 48th Fighter Wing told Stars and Stripes at the time that “the irresponsible or malicious use of lasers can threaten the lives of aircrew, passengers, and even individuals on the ground should it result in an aircraft crash.”
In addition to the general public, the US military has also had problems with other militaries — including its adversaries — pointing lasers at its aircraft in recent years.
The Pentagon in 2018 accused China of shining lasers at US military pilots operating out of a base in Djibouti, and similar incidents were reported near the East China Sea. And earlier this year, the US Navy slammed Iran for shining a laser at an attack helicopter flying above Middle Eastern waters.