16-Oct-87 12:05 MST Sb: APnv 10/15 2240 Stealth Missing LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) -- An Air For

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16-Oct-87 12:05 MST Sb: APnv 10/15 2240 Stealth Missing LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) -- An Air Force plane that Pentagon sources said was a top-secret Stealth fighter crashed in a rugged desert area, killing the pilot. A Pentagon official in Washington who asked not to be named described the missing plane as a Stealth fighter, similar to the plane that crashed in 1986 in California. The source refused to discuss the conditions under which the plane crashed and it could not be learned immediately whether the plane was on a training exercise or a flight test. Nellis Air Force Major Victor Andrijauskas said the pilot was killed when the plane crashed on the Nellis Air Force Gunnery range about 8:45 p.m. Wednesday. The crash was about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas and 50 miles south of a secret air base where the Air Force is known to test the Stealth fighter. A dispatcher for the Bureau of Land Management said the BLM was notified of a fire in the area Wednesday night, and called the Air Force, which operates the sprawling range facility. The dispatcher, who refused to give her name, said Air Force officials asked the BLM not to say where the fire was or how big it was. Andrijauskas refused to say what kind of plane crashed, but said the pilot was the only crew member aboard. He said emergency crews responded and secured the area. "We have personnel on the scene," said Andrijauskas. The spokesman said the pilot was assigned to Nellis, but refused to say what fighter wing he was attached to. Nellis is the largest fighter wing training facility in the United States. A plane believed to be a Stealth fighter crashed in July 1986 in the western Sierra Nevada, touching off a 150-acre brushfire in Sequoia National Park. The crash occurred about 12 miles northeast of Bakersfield, Calif. Air Force guards carrying rifles and pistols barred people from that crash site. The F-19 fighter known as the Stealth has been described as an experimental aircraft using the latest electronic technology, materials and aerodynamic design to foil radar and infared sensors. The Air Force has said it will buy 750 of the proposed advanced tactical fighters, which will be high-technology planes slated to become the mainstay of the U.S. air defense system through the mid-21st century. Reports have long circulated that the Air Force tests a squadron of 50 Stealth fighter jets under Nellis auspices at the Tonopah air field about 200 miles northwest of the base. Recently, a two-mile air strip was lengthened at the small base, and small, individual hardened hangars were built along the base's flight line. Residents in the Tonopah area said previously that the flight line remains quiet during the day. But at night, the desert erupts with an almost constant thunder of takeoffs and landings at the base. The Tonopah base is on the northern tip of the Nellis range, which covers about 3 million acres of desert and mountain areas, and borders on three sides the Nevada Test Site, where nuclear weapons tests are conducted. Copyright 1987 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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