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RAF aircraft narrowly avoids ‘catastrophic collision’ with US fighter jets

The pilot of the Voyager claimed one of the US F-15s flew as close as 50 metres from it.

An RAF tanker aircraft narrowly avoided a mid-air collision with two US fighter jets, a report has revealed.

The pilot of the Voyager claimed one of the US F-15s flew as close as 50 metres from it during the incident at a height of around 16,000 feet off the coast of north Norfolk.

The jet “aggressively pulled the nose up” after passing the refuelling aircraft in “what appeared to be late avoiding action”, according to the UK Airprox Board (UKAB) investigation.

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An RAF Voyager was involved in the incident (Nick Ansell/PA)

It should not be underestimated how close this was to a “catastrophic mid-air collision”, according to the Voyager pilot.

The near-miss occurred on January 5 shortly after the Voyager, based at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, refuelled two Typhoon aircraft.

The “fundamental cause” was that the US jets flew into conflict with the Voyager despite being required to give way, the UKAB found.

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Two US F-15s flew as close as 50 metres from an RAF Voyager (Andrew Parsons/PA)

Contributory factors included a lack of prompt information from air traffic control (ATC) in Swanwick, Hampshire, with one controller being distracted by a high workload which meant they did not sufficiently monitor the F-15s.

There was also a misunderstanding between the F-15 crews and ATC regarding the planned operating area of the aircraft.

The UKAB concluded that the incident was of the most serious degree of risk and “luck had played a major part” in contact being avoided.

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