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F-22 crashes near Edwards Air Force Base

March 25, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
An F-22 Raptor jet fighter crashed Wednesday in the high desert of Southern California.Lockheed Martin says a company test pilot died in an F-22 crash in the California desert.

A release from Edwards Air Force Base confirms the F-22 was based out of that facility and was conducting a test mission when it crashed about 35 miles northeast of the base, in the marshy flat land of Harper Dry Lake.

Rescue crews were at the site in the afternoon.

An Eyewitness News viewer who lives in Palmdale said the crash "felt like a small earthquake and sounded like a sonic boom" and "the whole house shook."

The crash happened at approximately 10 a.m.

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-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 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 44.5 feet and is flown by a single pilot.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


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