F-22 Raptor Stealth Fighter Crashes During Training Flight In Florida (Updated)
The Raptor was on a local training mission when the pilot was forced to eject.
Details are still limited, but an Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jet has crashed at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida and the pilot is now at a local hospital in stable condition. The aircraft was flying a routine training sortie at the time and was not involved in a flyover earlier in the day that was part of a larger nation-wide salute healthcare workers and first responders on the frontlines of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as some outlets initially reported.
The first reports of the crash began to emerge at around 11:30 AM local time. The Air Force says that the pilot successfully ejected from the aircraft before it hit the ground. An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the accident is already underway.
The actual crash appears to have occurred sometime before 11:00 AM. Fighter jets performing the separate flyover had reportedly just completed a route that took them over the cities of Panama City Beach, Panama City, and Lynn Haven. Those jets were also supposed to head over Mexico Beach and Gulf County, but at 11:48, officials at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida announced the cancellation of those portions of the route.
Any mishap involving an F-22 is particularly significant given the relatively small size of the fleet overall. Prior to this incident, the Air Force had only 186 Raptors in total, of which just around 125 of them are assigned to combat-coded units.
F-22 operations in Florida were also notably hard hit by Hurricane Michael in October 2018, which forced a number of the jets, along with supporting units, to leave Tyndall and move to Eglin. The 43rd Fighter Squadron, the designated F-22 Formal Training Unit (FTU), remains at Eglin, though the Air Force is now looking to move those training activities to Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. The 95th Fighter Squadron, an operational squadron previously based at Tyndall, has already dispersed its F-22s to Langley and other bases around the United States.
Update: 12:35 PM EST—
Eglin Air Force Base has now issued a statement confirming that the F-22 in question was assigned to the 43rd Fighter Squadron and that it was conducting a routine training flight at the time. The pilot is presently at the 96th Medical Group's hospital on base. The 96th Medical Group is part of the 96th Test Wing, the main unit at Eglin.
We will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.
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