U.S. F-111 Warplanes Arrive in Britain
LONDON (AP) _ Eighteen American F-111 fighter-bombers flew into Britain on Wednesday for what the U.S. Air Force called routine NATO exercises.
The F-111s included 12 attack planes and six jets equipped with electronic gear to confuse the enemy. They landed at Boscome Down airfield in western England for Operation Coronet, a NATO exercise designed to rehearse the deployment of British-based U.S. aircraft, a U.S. military spokesman said.
The spokesman, Lt. Col. Bob Brus at Mildenhall Air Base in eastern England, declined to say if the warplanes were connected with possible military action against Libya.
The U.S. government recently expressed renewed concern over what it says is the North African country’s support for terrorism, and warned there might be more U.S. action against it.
The U.S. aircraft carrier Forrestal has been ordered to remain on patrol in the Mediterranean Sea at the end of joint exercise with Egypt this week.
Carrier-based jets and 18 British-based F-111s took part in the April 15 U.S. bombing raid on Libya, which President Reagan said was in retaliation for Libyan involvement in the bombing of a West Berlin disco that killed two American servicemen and a Turkish woman.
Before the raid, the Air Force said the planes were participating in a four-day NATO exercise that had been planned a year in advance.
The aircraft that landed in England on Wednesday will fly over Britain and Europe before returning to their bases in New Mexico and Idaho on Sept. 24, said Brus. He said the flight crews were accompanied by about 500 technical and support staff.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office said Wednesday that Libya may have been indirectly involved in the Aug. 3 terrorist attack on a British Royal Air Force base recreation area in Cyprus. The grenade and small arms attack on a beach complex at Akrotiri injured two servicemen’s wives.
The Foreign Office said in a statement that ″it may have been the work of one of the Mideast groups which in the past have enjoyed material support from Libya.″
A previously unknown pro-Libyan group, the Unified Nasserite Organization, claimed responsibility for the attack, but British spokesmen refused to speculate who was behind it.