Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Updated: Edwards AFB F-22 Crashes in California

WASHINGTON (CNN) — An Air Force F-22A fighter jet crashed Wednesday near Edwards Air Force Base in California, Air Force officials said.

The single-seater crashed about 10:30 a.m. (1:30 p.m. ET) for unknown reasons, the officials said.

The status of the pilot was unknown.

The fighter was on a test mission when it crashed about 35 miles northeast of Edwards AFB, where it was stationed, the Air Force said in a news release.

At $150 million apiece, the F-22A is the most expensive Air Force jet.


The jet crashed six miles north of the base on Harper Dry Lakebed, said Air Force Maj. David Small at the Pentagon.

This dry lakebed in the Mojave Desert was the site of secret flight test programs

conducted by the Hughes & Northrop aircraft companies during the 1940s,

including the historic first flight by an American rocket-propelled aircraft.

Rescue crews were en route to the site and the status of the pilot was unknown, he said.

Small said the jet, assigned to Edwards' 412th Test Wing, was on a test mission but he did not know its nature.

Call to the base public affairs phone numbers were answered by recording machines.

The F-22 is the Air Force's new top-of-the-line fighter. Each of the radar-evading stealthy jets costs $140 million.

The $65 billion F-22 program is embattled, with some opponents contending that a different warplane under development, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, is more versatile and less costly at $80 million per plane.

The U.S. is committed to 183 F-22, down from the original plan laid out in the 1980s to build 750.

Its prime contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp., says there are 95,000 jobs connected to the F-22.

The F-22 is able to fly at supersonic speeds without using afterburners. That allows it to reach and stay in a battlespace faster and longer without being easily detected.

The two-engine fighter is 62 feet long, has a wingspan of 44 1/2 feet and is flown by a single pilot.

Update 2:20 PM

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- The Pentagon has confirmed that an F-22 Raptor has crashed outside of Edwards Air Force Base.
According to the Kern County Fire Department, the plane crashed near Kramer Junction.
The condition of the pilot is unknown.

The Raptors retail upwards of $145 million a piece.
According to the US Air Force Website, The F-22A features a combination of sensor capability, integrated avionics, situational awareness, and weapons provides first-kill opportunity against threats.

The F-22A possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected.

Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot's situational awareness.
In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs

In addition to being America’s most prominent air-superiority fighter, the F-22 evolved from its original concept to become a lethal, survivable and flexible multimission fighter. By taking advantage of emerging technologies the F-22 has emerged as a superior platform for many diverse missions including intelligence gathering, surveillance, reconnaissance and electronic attack.

Two squadrons of F-22s are assigned to Air Combat Command’s 1st Fighter Wing at Langley AFB, Va. And two squadrons are assigned to the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. Raptor pilots and maintainers train at Tyndall AFB, Fla., while operational testing is conducted at Edwards AFB, Calif., and Nellis AFB, Nev. New F-22s continue to roll from the production line and will soon operate out of Holloman AFB, N.M., and Hickam AFB, Hawaii.

What bloggers are saying about the crash.

Update 4:32 PM : Aviation Week & Space Technology

David A. Fulghum

The U.S. Air Force has confirmed an F-22A Raptor crashed about 10 a.m. today around 35 miles northeast of Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., where it was based.

The condition of the pilot is unknown at this time, USAF says. A program source tells Aviation Week that the reason the pilot's fate is unknown is because the F-22 was separated from the chase plane at the time of the accident and the chase pilot did not see what happened.

The Raptor was on an unidentified test mission. So far it appears to have been a captive carry weapons test by the 412th Test Wing.

A USAF statement said a board of officers will investigate the accident. "As soon as additional details of the crash become available, they will be provided," the service said.

This is the third crash of an F-22, and the second of a production aircraft. A YF-22 crashed during testing in 1992--the pilot survived without ejecting--and in 2004 a pilot at Nellis AFB was forced to eject shortly after takeoff. The Nellis crash grounded the F-22 fleet for two weeks.

The Air Force currently has 134 F-22s in its inventory.

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