- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 25, 2009

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) — An F-22 Raptor jet fighter crashed Wednesday in the high desert of Southern California.

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

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 feet and is flown by a single pilot.

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