Lakenheath-based F-15 dropped bomb that killed British soldiers in Afghanistan
RAF MILDENHALL, England — An Air Force F-15 out of RAF Lakenheath dropped the bomb that killed three British soldiers last week in Afghanistan.
It was one of two F-15s that was scrambled Thursday for close-air support after Taliban fighters attacked a British patrol, according to Britain’s Ministry of Defence, or MOD. The friendly fire incident occurred at about 6 p.m. local time in the country’s volatile Helmand province.
“We can confirm those F-15s are from Lakenheath,” Army Lt. Col. David Accetta, a spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, in Kabul, Afghanistan, said Tuesday.
The F-15s from Lakenheath’s 48th Fighter Wing are the only such aircraft currently providing close-air support in the country, according to officials with the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, the unit overseeing all Air Force assets in Afghanistan.
A 455th spokesman would not confirm Tuesday how many Lakenheath F-15s are deployed to Afghanistan.
Accetta would not confirm Tuesday if the involved pilots were still flying missions or still in Afghanistan, referring further questions to the U.S. Central Command.
The MOD identified the dead soldiers as Pvts. John Thrumble, 21, Robert Graham Foster, 19, and Aaron James McClure, 19. Two other soldiers were evacuated via helicopter.
The soldiers were assigned to the 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment, which is based in Bury St. Edmunds, about 20 miles from the U.S. Air Force communities at RAFs Lakenheath, Mildenhall and Feltwell
Representatives with the 48th Fighter Wing at Lakenheath have not commented on the friendly fire incident, sending all queries to ISAF in Afghanistan.
American and British authorities are conducting investigations into the bombing.
An MOD spokesman said Friday that this was the first incident in which British troops were felled by friendly fire in Afghanistan.
There have been high-profile cases of British soldiers killed by American friendly fire in Iraq. Earlier this year a British civilian investigation found that American pilots were at fault for the 2003 death of Lance Cpl. Matthew Hull near Basra. In that case, pilots mistook an allied convoy for the enemy. A separate U.S. probe exonerated the pilots.