A US Air Force Lockheed Martin F-22A stealth air supremacy fighter has crashed during a test flight in California, killing the pilot in the first such accident since the aircraft became fully operational in 2007.
Bloomberg reports test pilot David Cooley, 49, had been with Lockheed Martin since 2003, the company said in a statement. He was a 21-year Air Force veteran.
Air Force spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Karen Platt says the fighter was on a flight from Edwards Air Force Base in California and crashed about 35 miles northeast of the base at 10am local time on Wednesday.
This is only the second crash involving the type. An F-22A fell in December 2004 during testing, Platt said. The pilot in that incident ejected safely. The F22 gained “initial operational capability” in 2005 and became fully operational in 2007.
The US is currently slated to buy 183 Raptors and US President Barack Obama is scheduled to decide by next month whether to purchase more.
“The timing isn`t great for the aircraft`s advocates, but I can`t imagine one crash being an effective argument against additional procurement,” Richard Aboulafia, an analyst at the Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia, told Bloomberg in an interview. “I can`t think of a modern-generation fighter that hasn`t crashed either in operational use or in testing.”
Cooley worked with a team of Lockheed Martin and Air Force pilots conducting F-22A testing, the Bethesda, Maryland-based company said.
Air Force spokesman Vince King said it wasn`t immediately known what type of test mission the jet was on.
“Aircraft that fly at Edwards Air Force Base fly test missions to evaluate everything from airframe structures to propulsion and avionics and electronic warfare, all with the aim of ensuring weapons systems are suitable for their intended combat missions,” King said.
The F-22A is the most expensive fighter aircraft in world history, at US$354 million each in inflation-adjusted dollars amortising 20 years of research and development.
Conceived in the early 1980s as a radar-evading, advanced dogfighter to take on the Soviet Air Force, the F-22 was recast in the early 1990s to engage ground targets as well.