LAS VEGAS — An Air Force plane that Pentagon sources said was a top-secret stealth fighter crashed Wednesday night, killing its pilot, officials said Thursday.
A Pentagon official who asked not to be named described the plane as a stealth fighter, similar to a plane that crashed in California last year.
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.
An Air Force spokesman refused to say what kind of plane was involved. It was last tracked on radar at 8:45 p.m. Wednesday about 100 miles northwest of here, said Maj. Victor Andrijauskas of Nellis Air Force Base.
Andrijauskas would not say where the plane was from or give any other details. He said emergency crews were in the vicinity, searching for the aircraft.
A dispatcher for the Bureau of Land Management said his agency was notified of a fire in the area Wednesday night and called the Air Force. The dispatcher, who refused to give her name, said Air Force officials asked the bureau not to say where the fire was or how big it was.
The Air Force generally releases the type of aircraft and the number of crew members involved in crashes. Andrijauskas refused to comment on the unusual secrecy.
The area of the crash is about 100 miles south of a base where the Air Force is known to be testing stealth fighter aircraft.
A plane believed to be a stealth fighter crashed in July, 1986, in the western Sierra Nevada, touching off a 150-acre brush fire in Sequoia National Park. That crash occurred about 12 miles northeast of Bakersfield. 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 enemy radar and infrared sensors.
The Air Force has said that it will buy 750 of the proposed advanced tactical fighters, which are slated to become the mainstay of the U.S. air defense system through the mid-21st Century.
Nellis is one of three sites in Nevada used to test super-secret aircraft. Its bombing and gunnery range 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.