Another U.S. Air Force F15 fighter crashed in West Germany today, the fifth such loss in the past eight months for the twin-jet fighter that is the latest front-line warplane in the U.S. arsenal in Western Europe.
It was also the second crash of an F15 here in the last 10 days. The pilot, Lt. Thomas Mascot of Chicopee, Mass., ejected safely. He was reportedly on a training flight when the aircraft came down near Koblenz.
An Air Force spokesman said investigators would look into this latest crash, as they are still doing with the other four accidents. Although no causes have been announced, the spokesman said "We don't see any trends that indicate there is anything seriously wrong with the aircraft."
All the downed F15s are from the 76-plane 36th Tactical Fighter Wing based at Bitburg, north of Trier, near the Luxembourg border. This is the only unit in West Germany thus far to be equipped with the speedy new jet, which is supposed to be the spearhead of U.S. air defense for Western Europe.
The Air Force maintains that the F15 has the lowest crash rate of three major U.S. Air Force fighters of recent years in their 100,000 hours of flight -- the other two being the F104 Starfighter and F4 Phantom.
West German sources, however, claim that the first F15 squadrons deployed in Germany today are losing planes faster than the first squadrons of West German pilots lost the infamous Starfighters 17 years ago.