F-22 crashes in California desert

March 25, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
One of the Air Force's top-of-the-line F-22 fighter jets crashed Wednesday in the high desert of Southern California. There was no immediate word on whether the pilot ejected. The F-22 Raptor crashed 35 miles northeast of Edwards Air Force Base, Pentagon spokesman Gary Strassburg said. He had no information about the area where the jet crashed.

Rescue crews were en route and the status of the pilot was unknown, said Air Force Maj. David Small at the Pentagon.

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 radar-evading F-22s each cost $140 million and are designed for air dominance. The warplanes can carry air-to-air missiles but are capable of ground attack as well.

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-22s, 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 at 1,000 companies connected to the F-22.

A spokesman for Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin referred all calls about the crash to the Air Force.

Lockheed is trying to convince the Pentagon to buy as many as 20 more F-22s. The military is expected to signal its intentions when the 2010 Defense Department budget is released next month.

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 fighter, powered by two Pratt & Whitney engines, is 62 feet long, has a wingspan of 441/2 feet and is flown by a single pilot.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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United States Air Force News Release

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- An Air Force F-22A fighter crashed about 10 a.m. today approximately 35 miles northeast of Edwards AFB, CA.

The aircraft is from Edwards Air Force Base. At the time of the accident, it was on a test mission. One pilot was on board. Their condition is unknown at this time.

A board of officers will investigate the accident.

As soon as additional details become available, they will be provided.

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