Home Australia The RAF stealth fighter jet nearly collided at 290mph with a drone at 14,500ft after the device appeared just 300ft from its nose.

The RAF stealth fighter jet nearly collided at 290mph with a drone at 14,500ft after the device appeared just 300ft from its nose.

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An RAF stealth fighter came within just 300 feet of crashing into a drone flying illegally over Norfolk, an official report has revealed (Stock Photo)
  • The drone flew at more than 36 times the legal height for the devices

An RAF stealth fighter came just 300ft from crashing into a drone flying illegally over Norfolk, an official report has revealed.

The incident, which occurred at 14,460 feet, is believed to have occurred at the highest altitude ever recorded for a near-collision between an RAF aircraft and a drone.

The F-35 Lightning aircraft was traveling at nearly 290 mph when the device came into view just “off the left nose.” The pilot, who was followed by an instructor in a second single-seat F-35, later called the chances of a collision “high.”

The drone was flying at more than 36 times the legal height for the devices.

An RAF stealth fighter came within just 300 feet of crashing into a drone flying illegally over Norfolk, an official report has revealed (Stock Photo)

The drone flew at more than 36 times the legal height for the devices (File photo)

The drone flew at more than 36 times the legal height for the devices (File photo)

It is believed the operator was never located, but if he had been caught and found guilty of endangering an aircraft, he could have been jailed for five years.

The crash occurred about eight miles east of Norwich, just before 1pm on February 14, according to the UK Airprox Board (UKAB), which assesses near misses. The pilot from RAF Marham, Norfolk, initially assumed the drone was another aircraft in the “distant distance”, but it “soon became apparent” that it was a drone and that they were on “rapidly closing flight paths”. The UKAB report said the F-35 had “little time to maneuver meaningfully” while the drone was in sight for up to five seconds before passing to the left side of the plane.

The drone was not detected by radar, meaning there was only a “very late visual acquisition”, the UKAB report confirmed.

The pilot of the second F-35, who was nearly two miles behind, also “achieved visual contact” with the drone. A review of onboard video from helmet-mounted cameras suggested the device was a quadcopter-style drone, the report said. It had a “similar silhouette” to a Phantom drone made by the Chinese company DJI.

The RAF pilot spotted the drone while flying on a first “live sortie” to learn how to operate the F-35.

Aviation experts have long warned about the dangers posed by drones being sucked into a plane’s engine or crashing into a pilot’s cockpit.

Modern drones available for sale to the public have software that limits their height to the legal maximum of 400 feet, but this can be overridden by software patches purchased over the Internet. Operators can also charge additional batteries to reach greater heights.

The pilot from RAF Marham, Norfolk (pictured) at first assumed the drone was another aircraft in the

The pilot from RAF Marham, Norfolk (pictured) at first assumed the drone was another aircraft in the “distant distance” but it “soon became apparent” that it was a drone and that they were on “rapidly closing flight paths” .

An RAF spokesperson said: “The RAF regularly carries out essential flying training across the UK. Drones operating in close proximity to our aircraft can pose a significant threat to their safety and can be extremely difficult for aircraft to detect. our crew and take measures to avoid them.

“We continue to encourage users to transport their assets responsibly and legally.”

RAF – Royal Air Force

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