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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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