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F-22 Wreckage Found in Alaska, Pilot Still Missing

by John Reed on November 17, 2010

Air Force rescue personnel have found the wreckage of what they believe to be the F-22 Raptor that went missing on Nov. 16 from Elmendorf Air Force base in Alaska, according to a statement put out by the service tonight.

Search and rescue crews have found the apparent wreckage of an F-22 Raptor Nov. 17 that was assigned to the 3rd Wing here.

However, the pilot is still missing.

“We’re still doing an active search for the pilot,” the AP quoted Col. Jack McMullen, commander of the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf, as saying. “Perhaps he ejected.”

Despite the extreme Alaskan weather, the pilot may have a chance at survival, McMullen told the AP.

“They have survival gear,” McMullen said. “He’s Arctic trained to survive in that environment. He’s got the gear on. He’s got stuff in his survival kit, so that he could hunker himself down and fight the extreme cold.”

McMullen provided more details on the incident in an Air Force press release:

“Last night a two-ship (flight) of F-22s, Rocky One and Rocky Three, were finished with training … about 100 miles north of here,” Colonel McMullen said.

Everything was normal until about 7:40 p.m., he said, when Rocky Three fell off the radar scope and the pilot lost communications.

“The other pilot (Rocky One) went to a tanker, got gas and then continued to look for the mishap pilot,” Colonel McMullen said. “He could not find him. At that time, the Alaska Air National Guard scrambled a C-130 and rescue helicopters. They searched the entire night.”

About 10:15 a.m., an Alaska Air National Guard helicopter found a site that fits the data and the description of where rescuers thought the mishap probably occurred, Colonel McMullen said.

“They found the crash site,” he said. “They were unable to land at the crash site and take a closer look. We scrambled another helicopter that should be in the area in the next few moments.”

Steve Trimble over at Flight Global notes that this is the second F-22 loss in little over a year, and third overall, bringing the total number of jets that will ultimately be fielded to 185, unless more are built. 

The F-22 costs $143 million apiece according to the Air Force (although its critics claim the real cost is far higher) and before this latest crash, the Raptor had a Class A mishap rate of six to seven per 100,000 flight hours, according to the folks at Strategy Page.

A Class A mishap is any incident involving an aircraft where over $1 million worth of damage occurs.

It should be noted that reaching this threshhold is fairly easy with the Raptor given its low-observable coatings and other high priced features. In fact, a “minor” collision last year between an F-22 and a Canadian CF-18 parked on the ramp at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida was declared a Class A mishap.

Hoping they find the pilot alright.

– John Reed

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Liam November 17, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Hope 'Rocky Three' is found soon.

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DJCarbon43 November 17, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Now that the imbeciles posting about a possible desertion have (hopefully) been silenced, lets keep this pilot and his family in our thoughts, and hope against hope that he's still alive.

May the stars shine bright upon you Rocky Three

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Jacob November 18, 2010 at 2:03 am

If they're idiots then why bother bringing them up?

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@Earlydawn November 18, 2010 at 12:23 am

The wording of the article implies that they found the crash site, but it's either mangled or upside-down. They couldn't land a SAR team.

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blight November 18, 2010 at 8:25 am

Well, they should be able to determine fairly quickly whether or not the pilot was able to eject. If canopy is still attached, then they've found the pilot.

If the Inuit can /live/ in Alaska then survival is possible, as long as pilot has the right gear. I wonder if they're sending a rescue team by land as well, just in case helicopters are unable to return?

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Devil Doc 66 November 18, 2010 at 10:25 am

For those of u who have brains…..I am glad they located the plane and it should not be very long to discover where the pilot is!!! He has to be close by!! Unfortunately he, if alive should have a homing/EPURB beacon that would tell rescuers exactly where he is!!! If he ejected, the seat has a locator beacon built in!!! That is why I fear the worst for him!!! I just pray that I am wrong and he is ok!!!

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Bernard Baudoin November 20, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Well said!
Hope the pilot 'll be recovered healthy!

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John Richards November 18, 2010 at 10:33 am

dont forget Canada

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charles November 18, 2010 at 4:49 pm

why the hell a pilot would defect to canada?Do you seriously think canada would hide a deserter?

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Devil Doc 66 November 18, 2010 at 10:39 am

Well that area is pretty trecherous and at the time the craft that made the discovery may not have had the resources to get to the site!!! and nothing was mentioned of what condition the wreckage was in…ie scattered over a large area!!! Depends on a lot of factors as to how they procede!!! And I am sure they are being hush hush….knowing the guy's family is following the news too!!! Would be bad to say the plane is completely destroyed and doubtful of his survival and have his family hear it!!! As I said, having been a SAR Corpsman, I do know that in truth, if he is alive, there would be some kind of beacon being sent out by the ejector seat or by him using his survival kit!!! They contain that technology so we can locate a downed pilot at sea or on land….smoke canisters, flares, homing radio beacons/EPURB so if he is alive I am sure we would have some sign being it is a domestic locale on our own soil and not in a combat zone!!! Again I pray I am wrong and that he is ok!!!

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Bob Godwin November 18, 2010 at 10:50 am

lets keep the pilot and his family in our thoughts

Read more: http://defensetech.org/2010/11/17/f-22-wreckage-f
Defense.org

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Don Girvan November 18, 2010 at 10:58 am

Having served almost 3 years in the USArmy Alaska I am encouraged that we are in November and not January or February. The chances of survival are much better.
We'll say a prayer for the pilot and his family.
Don

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Travis November 18, 2010 at 11:03 am

The survival kit has a beacon. Once he detaches from the seat they should be seeing the beacon signal, unless for some reason it didn’t work, and I hope to hell it is. Details seem to be pretty thin. Their kits have some outstanding gear in them, I hope we find him alive.

–Egress guy

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blight November 18, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Is it possible that the GPS locator was damaged during the system failure/ejection?

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Sanem November 18, 2010 at 11:33 am

so a $300 million, unique airplane was lost, and possibly the life of a highly skilled pilot, on a training mission

these are the costs of not pursuing UAV technology more agressively, something which would save lives and a lot of money

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Mark O'Connell November 18, 2010 at 1:57 pm

When they canceled production the fly away cost of the F-22 was down to 127 million. I hope the pilot is alive and is found.

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William C. November 18, 2010 at 3:54 pm

This insistence on an all-UAV force is unrealistic and a bad idea for many standpoints. We need both manned and unmanned aircraft. Far many more servicemen will die if we don't have aircraft like the F-22.

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blight November 18, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Cost goes down with increasing units made. Bear in mind the fighter jets we have today were built in the days before gold-plating and were built in such quantities that we had economies of scale discounts. Cost is expected.

The Predator is comparatively short ranged, slow and doesn't mount a large payload. If we flew manned equivalents, they'd be cheap too (but they'd have pilots, which can be good or bad).

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Interested November 21, 2010 at 4:41 am

Stop spreading myths!
Modern days UAV/UCAV technolgy _CAN NOT_ replace the manned aircraft!
Remote controlled UAVs are highly vulnerable because of remote control channel could be jammed by any developed nation. They are nearly useless for air superiority etc. etc.

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Craig Hooper November 18, 2010 at 2:59 pm

If memory serves, the Class A mishap threshold bumped up to $2 million sometime in the last year.

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mike j November 19, 2010 at 12:42 am

The Pilot's name has been released. Capt. Jeffrey A. Haney. Thoughts are with you and yours.

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Jacob November 19, 2010 at 1:14 am

You know, they've got the wreckage of the airplane….shouldn't they be able to tell whether the ejection seat is still there or not? If the seat is missing then you can only assume that he did eject and that there's a pretty good chance he's okay.

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mike j November 19, 2010 at 1:26 am

Answer is, it depends. They know where the wreckage is, they may not be able to put people and equipment on the site to explore it. And I'm not going to be macabre, so I'll just say punching out of the jet only gives you another chance, it's not a guarantee. There's just too many unknowns about the circumstances.

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@Earlydawn November 19, 2010 at 3:44 am

As an update, CNN has reported that they've secured the crash site, but are unable to ascertain the pilot's status. I guess the wreckage is a real horror show. Two days in arctic conditions and no beacon or commo doesn't look good. :(

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Devil Doc 66 November 19, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Ya….if they secured the site and he isn't there and no beacons or contact then I have little hope!! It is not like he would be hiding from anyone up there and with the extreme cold and various dangers there it would make for a very hard survival!!! It is winter up there and it is drastic between summer and winter and the human body as resiliant as it may be it will succumb pretty quickly in those conditions!!! Plus, u add any injuries he may have suffered in the crash/ejection and the fact that although the survival packs are pretty well stocked, he still wont have the supplies say a hiker/tracker would who went with a full issue of cold weather gear and supplies!!! He has basic stores at best!!! And there would be SOME sort of radio or rescue beacon on him or the seat and he would be close by the site…within a few hundred yards u'd think!!! I hate to say it but it looks grim to me!!!

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David Galloway November 19, 2010 at 12:08 pm

excellent thought!

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Mark November 22, 2010 at 12:39 pm

This article shows the current cost of the F-35A is $150 million a copy. It's easy math. 3 billion dollars for 20 planes. That's $23 million more per aircraft then the F-22.
http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story.jsp?… Mulls F-35s For Peace-Talks Offer &channel=defense

By the way when Israel buys F-35s it's us American's who pay for it. So they are getting the discount we already get.

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blight November 22, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Mark, that cost is R&D+plane related costs. Plane related costs are related to the platform, but R&D costs is R&D for all JSF's distributed equally per platform. For instance, if VTOL JSF costs lots of money, the average per platform cost of all variants goes up. So even if the USAF version is cheap to build, it shoulders the burden of offsetting R&D of more expensive variants.

Even 150 mil/aircraft is expensive. The B-2's actual cost in FY '97 was <800 per copy, but went up to >2 billion once the reduced order and high R&D costs were combined.

I find it sad that fighter costs are creeping up so quickly. I am afraid of how much it would cost to build a next generation bomber at the rate prices are going up.

A P-51 Mustang cost ~50k in '45 dollars which is ~600k today. A B-17 cost ~238k in those days, so a bomber almost cost 5x.(The modern fighters versus B-2 are at roughly 4x) .B-29 cost ~640k back then, which is a fighter:bomber cost of over 10x. If a next-gen bomber costs 10x a fighter, then the flyaway cost is 1 billion, minimum, with large orders and economies of scale. If you can't offset R&D, the cost of the B2 tripled. Next gen bomber prices if tripled would cost over 3 billion, which is a 50% hike over the B-2.

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Mark November 22, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Almost wants to make you toss cookies…. ><

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blight November 22, 2010 at 1:45 pm

News reported that they think the pilot didn't eject, since "part of the ejection seat was found at the site", along with pieces of flight suit. It doesn't sound pretty at all. I feel terrible for the family, and am hoping they can at least find the pilot, dead or alive. Christian burial and closure, not like the people you randomly find at Everest years after they've gone missing.

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