LONDON (Reuters) - The pilot of a U.S. Marine fighter jet was killed on Wednesday when it crashed on farmland after taking off from a U.S. Air Force (USAF) base in eastern England, officials said.
The U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet, belonging to the Marine Attack Fighter Squadron 232 based at Miramar, California, came down in Redmere near Ely, a rural area about 70 miles (110 km) north of London.
“Sadly, we can now confirm that the pilot of the crashed F-18 has died,” the U.S. embassy in London said on its Twitter website.
The jet was one of six aircraft returning to Miramar from Bahrain when it crashed after taking off from RAF Lakenheath, a statement from the air base said.
The other five were diverted to RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland where they landed safely and the cause of the crash was as yet unknown, the statement added.
British media reports said the planes were returning to the United States after being involved in the bombing campaign against Islamic State militants in Syria, but a Lakenheath spokesman said he was unable to confirm this.
Lakenheath, home to Europe’s only F-15 fighter wing, is the largest USAF-operated base in England with 4,500 active-duty military personnel and 2,000 British and U.S. civilians, according to its website.
Last year, four crew on board a U.S. Pave Hawk helicopter based at Lakenheath were killed when their aircraft crashed during a training exercise in a rural area on the north Norfolk coast.
In 2001, two single-seat F-15Cs from Lakenheath crashed while on a low-flying training mission over Scotland, killing both pilots.
Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison