Interest is sky-high in planes' formation
A MID-AIR operation over Somerset apparently involving military jets from two countries captured the interest of sky gazers on Friday.
Four sleek jets were seen closely tracking a much larger aeroplane over Yeovil at around 12.50pm.
For viewers below, the close formation flying made a remarkable sight.
The Western Gazette sister website thisissomerset.co.uk reported the spectacle on Friday afternoon, shortly after onlookers in Yeovil saw the aeroplanes pass overhead.
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At the time it was unclear what the aircraft were, prompting speculation that US Presidential jet Air Force One was flying over Somerset.
From a distance the formation appeared to be a single commercial airliner approaching from the north. As it got closer an unusual series of parallel trails behind the aircraft became clear.
Sources at nearby RNAS Yeovilton said the aircraft were not from the base.
Its air traffic control said aircraft flying at that height were unlikely to be in contact with the station.
A spokesman for NATS, which is responsible for controlling aircraft in civilian air space above the UK, said its operation room was unaware of the formation and it was likely to be military aircraft.
The story became one of the most read on the website on Friday as hundreds of people logged in to find out more.
Several contacted the Western Gazette and posted on the newspaper's Facebook page.
One of them, Dominic Foxwell of Yeovil, said the formation was a United States Air Force KC-10 refuelling a group of Swedish Air Force SAAB JAS39 Gripens.
Kevan Downey said he had seen a similar formation over Yeovil earlier on Friday.
"There was a five aircraft flight – four in a 'finger four' formation and another slightly behind, observed as they went over Middle Street.
"This was at approximately 10.45am," he said.
First Lieutenant Christopher Mesnard of the United States Air Force 100th Air Refueling Wing, based at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, said: "The aircraft were a part of a refuelling coronet en route to a training exercise.
"RAF Mildenhall serves as a standard divert (air)field for the eight SAAB JAS39 Gripens that were being refuelled by two US Air Force KC-10 Extenders.
"The aircraft made an unscheduled maintenance divert to RAF Mildenhall before carrying on to their training mission."