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F-22 Raptor Missing in Alaska

The search is on for an F-22 out of Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska that "lost contact with air traffic control at 7:40 p.m. Alaska time [yesterday] while on a routine training mission,"  reads an Air Force press release titled, "F-22 aircraft overdue in reporting."

Pentagon officials just released a statement this afternoon saying:

A search is underway and is being coordinated by officials with the Alaska Air National Guard Rescue Coordination Center. Airmen in HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters and an HC-130 King are combing an area northeast of Cantwell, Alaska, the last known location of the aircraft.

"Right now, our top priority is to try to bring the pilot home safely," said Col. Jack McMullen, the 3rd Wing commander. "We will continue to search until we find our pilot. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of this missing Airman."

 NBC News reported earlier today that:
The advanced stealth fighter jet was about 90 miles northeast of Elmendorf Air Force Base when it "dropped off the radar."
There was no mayday or any other communication from the pilot that would have indicated the plane was in trouble, the officials told NBC News. There have been no distress calls from the pilot since the plane went missing

U.S. military helicopters and at least one C-130 have so far failed to turn up any sign of the missing fighter jet.

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 presumed 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.

Hope the pilot of the Alaska jet got out alright.

-- John Reed

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