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US Air Force Wing Begs the Public to Stop Pointing Lasers at Its Aircraft

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In a recent advisory, the 48th Fighter Wing of the US Air Force, stationed at RAF Lakenheath in the UK, has issued a plea to the public, urging them to cease pointing laser pointers at its aircraft. This trend, known as ‘lasing,’ has raised significant concerns among military authorities due to its severe threat to flight safety.

The advisory highlighted recent incidents of laser pointers directed at fighter aircraft during flight operations. The consequences of such actions extend beyond the immediate danger to pilots and crew; they also create hazards for the towns, villages, and homes located beneath the approach corridor to RAF Lakenheath.

While ‘lasing’ incidents targeting aircraft in flight are always hazardous, the fighter wing emphasized that at low altitudes, it becomes a critical danger impacting the safe operation of the plane. The potential risks concern the aircrew’s near-term vision and long-term optical health and carry legal ramifications for those responsible.

RAF Lakenheath, located seventy miles northeast of London, is England’s most extensive US Air Force-operated base, boasting around 4,700 military personnel. It uniquely serves as Europe’s sole US Air Force base, operating F-35A and F-15E fighter jets.

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This advisory from the 48th Fighter Wing is not the first instance of the US military addressing the issue of laser-pointing at aircraft. In 2022, the 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico cautioned against the potentially catastrophic consequences of such actions, both for aircrew and individuals on the ground.

The statement emphasized that despite perceiving handheld lasers as harmless, their compact size, easy availability, and widespread ownership render them significantly dangerous to aircrews. The FBI stressed that ‘lasing’ an aircraft in flight is a federal crime, punishable by fines up to $250,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.

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While the recent incidents at RAF Lakenheath were not detailed in the advisory, the base experienced a similar occurrence in 2016 when a laser temporarily disoriented the aircrew of an F-15E Strike Eagle.

The 48th Fighter Wing spokesperson stressed that the irresponsible or malicious use of lasers could endanger lives and lead to severe consequences, including aircraft crashes. Beyond concerns with the general public, the US military has faced challenges from other nations, including adversaries, pointing lasers at its aircraft in recent years.

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The Pentagon accused China in 2018 of shining lasers at US military pilots in Djibouti, and similar incidents were reported near the East China Sea. Earlier this year, the US Navy condemned Iran for directing a laser at an attack helicopter above Middle Eastern waters.

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The advisory from the 48th Fighter Wing serves as a stark reminder of the potential dangers posed by the reckless use of laser pointers. It stresses the need for public awareness and responsible behavior to ensure the safety of aircrews, passengers, and people on the ground.

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