EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE — An unmanned reconnaissance aircraft being developed for the U.S. military crashed Monday morning in the Mojave Desert during a routine test flight, a U.S. Air Force spokeswoman said.
No one was hurt in the accident, which destroyed the Global Hawk aircraft at 10:14 a.m. on the grounds of the China Lake Naval Air Station, 120 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, said the spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Vicki Stein.
"The aircraft had been flying about 20 minutes before it crashed," Stein said. "Right now we don't know what caused the crash or any of the specifics regarding the flight test."
Built by Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical in San Diego for the U.S. Department of Defense, the glider-like Global Hawk can reach an altitude of 12 miles.
The aircraft is equipped with sophisticated cameras designed to give military commanders a view of an area the size of the state of Illinois. The plane needs a runway for takeoff but can stay over a target for 24 hours.
To counter antiaircraft threats, the plane also carries a threat-detection system with on-board electronic jamming equipment, as well as expendable and towed decoys.
The Defense Department has been the prime mover behind development of such unmanned air vehicles, or UAVs as they are known, because they keep pilots out of harm's way in dangerous situations.
Teledyne Ryan is building six planes for the U.S. government, each copy priced at about $10 million when they go into production. The downed Global Hawk was one of two of the aircraft undergoing flight evaluations at Edwards. The Air Force is investigating the accident.