An unidentified US Air Force aircraft assigned to Materiel Command crashed on the Nevada Test and Training Range on 5 September, killing the test pilot and raising questions about the potential existence of a new classified aircraft.
The USAF’s 99th Wing public affairs office at nearby Nellis AFB confirms the crash that occurred during a training mission at about 6pm killed Lt Col Eric Schultz, a USAF test pilot who had previously worked on the Lockheed Martin F-35 test programme. An investigation is underway and “additional information concerning the accident will be released as it becomes available”, the USAF says.
A 99th Wing spokeswoman adds that information about the identity of the aircraft type is classified, according to Military.com. The Nellis AFB press release says only that the aircraft is assigned to Air Force Materiel Command, which is charged with managing the development and maintenance of all USAF-owned aircraft. AFMC also manages the Air Force Test Center at Edwards AFB, which includes units that perform tests on non-classified aircraft, such as the F-35 and F-22.
The USAF press release indicates the crash occurred 100mi northwest of Nellis AFB, which puts in the local vicinity of a USAF test centre popularly known as Area 51.
Area 51, which sits on a dry lakebed known as Groom Lake, is about 150mi northwest of Nellis, and it has been used since the mid-1950s as a test centre for the USAF’s and Central Intelligence Agency’s most classified aircraft, including the U-2, SR-71 and F-117.