By James Gant for MailOnline
ENGLAND — A US Air Force F-15C fighter jet has crashed into the North Sea off the coast of Middlesbrough during a routine training flight.
The aircraft had been taking part in a four-jet formation off Flamborough Head before it hit the water.
A huge search and rescue mission has been launched for the pilot of the single-seater jet, which had been based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk.
It is unclear what caused the incident at 9.40am.
Two RNLI lifeboats were heading to the crash site – 74 nautical miles off the coast – as three US Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers circled above.
A statement from RAF Lakenheath said: ‘The aircraft was from the 48th Fighter Wing, RAF Leakenheath, United Kingdom.
‘At the time of the accident, the aircraft was on a routine training mission with one pilot on board.
‘The cause of the crash as well as the status of the pilot are unknown at this time and UK Search and Rescue have been called to support.’
The F-15C, a single-seater air defence fighter, is a model of jet that has been used by the US Air Force since 1979.
RAF spokesman Martin Tinworth said the aircraft has an ‘exceptional flight safety record’.
HM Coastguard said in a statement: ‘HM Coastguard is coordinating the response after reports were received of an aeroplane going down into the sea 74 nautical miles off Flamborough Head.
‘The HM Coastguard helicopter from Humberside has been sent along with Bridlington and Scarborough RNLI lifeboats.
‘Following a Mayday broadcast by HM Coastguard, other vessels nearby are heading to the area. It’s believed the aircraft had one person on board.’
A US military helicopter crashed on the coast of eastern England in 2014, killing all four crew on board. (MailOnline)