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Military

Green laser aimed at Anchorage fighter jets poses safety problem, JBER says

  • Author: Tegan Hanlon
  • Updated: October 23
  • Published October 20

F-22 Raptors could be seen in the air over Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. (Bill Roth / ADN archive 2011)

Someone pointed a green laser at four fighter jets as they prepared to land at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage on Tuesday night, according to military officials.

Air Force Col. Chris Niemi, the 3rd Wing commander at JBER, described the incident to news media Friday as the first time a laser had posed a "significant problem" for aircraft at the Anchorage military base.

While no one was hurt, he said he wanted to remind Alaskans that shining a laser at an aircraft not only poses a serious safety risk, but also violates federal law. It's a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine, he said.

"When you're flying on a dark night and the laser light is shining into the cockpit, it can cause temporary blindness if you were to look at the laser," he said. "Also, just the fact that it's illuminating the cockpit can be very distracting to the pilot."

Air Force Col. Chris Niemi, the 3rd Wing commander at JBER, said someone pointed a green laser at four fighter jets Tuesday night. (Tegan Hanlon / Alaska Dispatch News)

Niemi said that on Tuesday, the green laser tracked the four F-22 Raptors' landing lights as, one by one, the jets descended onto the base around 8 or 9 p.m. He said the laser was directed at each jet for roughly five to 10 seconds.

"It was long enough that we felt like it was sustained and it was deliberate, although maybe unintended in regard to the consequences," he said.

He said the military did not know who wielded the laser Tuesday night, but believed the person was in the Spenard area.

He said he hoped the person did not realize the serious safety risk their actions created, and that by informing the community about the dangers of pointing a laser at a plane, "we can avoid these incidents."

Niemi encouraged anyone who sees someone pointing a laser at a plane to call law enforcement.

Staff at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and Eielson Air Force Base, southeast of Fairbanks, on Friday reported no recent issues with lasers pointed at planes.

A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman, Allen Kenitzer, said the federal agency had received two reports of lasers aimed at commercial planes in Anchorage this year, once in March and once in August.

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