The tragic dying of Lieutenant Colonel Eric Schultz final week on a weapons testing vary in Nevada has attracted an inordinate quantity of pursuits.
And it’s due to what we do not know.
The US Air Force has pointedly refused to disclose what plane he was at the controls of when the fatal accident occurred. It also took them three days to even admit his death.
This is in stark distinction to a different accident, at the identical vary, in the identical week. Details of an accident involving two A-10 ground-attack jets which compelled their pilots to eject have been launched inside hours.
So what might presumably trigger such reluctance to disclose the circumstances of Schultz’ dying?
“I can undoubtedly say it was not an F-35,” Chief of Staff of the Air Force General David L. Goldfein said at the weekend.
He was responding to hypothesis that this accident concerned the extremely controversial stealth fighter, and that this was being covered-up to guard its already bruised fame.
The F-35 Lightning II has lately suffered a number of engine fires — one in all which injured a pilot. It has additionally been the topic of warnings surrounding its ejection seat which — when mixed with the load and form of its superior helmet — might break the neck of its pilots.
But it wasn’t and F-35.
So what was it?
The USAF is remaining tight-lipped.
All we all know is the unspecified plane crashed about 6pm some 200km northwest of Nellis Air Force Base within the Nevada Test and Training vary. This vary is additionally house to the extraordinarily secretive “Area 51” analysis and improvement facility.
Everything from crashed alien spacecraft to the next-generation Blackbird ultra-fast surveillance jet are mentioned to be housed right here.
But we don’t truly know. It’s secret.
The USAF additionally admitted the unknown plane was being operated by the Air Force Materiel Command. This is the unit that funds and operates plane analysis — and amenities like Area 51 (Groom Lake).
So analysts have been pouring by means of declassified reviews into actions within the Nevada space to glean no matter clues they will.
STEALTH COUNTERMEASURES: It was reported final 12 months that the well-known F-117 Nighthawk assault jets — used to get rid of Saddam Hussein’s air defences within the opening minutes of Operation Desert Storm in 1990 — had been introduced again from retirement. Aviation fanatics captured its distinctive form within the air, and on the bottom, across the Groom Lake (Area 51) facility. Analysts speculate examples of the plane might have been reactivated to additional take a look at stealth applied sciences amid fears new Russian and Chinese sensors might have already negated a lot of the ultra-expensive F-35’s stealth benefit. But the return of the F-117 has not but been admitted by the USAF.
THREAT EVALUATION: There is proof the United States might have gotten its fingers on one in all Russia’s most succesful fight jets — the Su-27P. While it first entered service in 1985, this jet is the premise upon which a lot of Russia’s present frontline warplanes have been constructed. These are extensively regarded to be extra manoeuvrable than equal Western plane, such because the F-15 Eagle and F-18 Hornet. At least one in all these was seen engaged in a mock dogfight with a USAF F-16 Falcon close to Area 51 late final 12 months. The presence of those Russian-built plane has not been formally admitted, nevertheless, and explaining away a deadly crash involving one might show an undesirable embarrassment for the Pentagon.
NEXT-GENERATION BOMBER: In January 2016, the Pentagon introduced it had chosen a design to interchange its historic fleet of B-52 bombers, in addition to its 1980s-era B-1B Lancer bombers. The $55 billion Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider is purported to be a cut-price stealth design, constructing upon the know-how already established by the B-2 Spirit. But all the pieces in regards to the undertaking — together with its true funds — is high secret. Whether or not a flying prototype of the B-21 exists is unsure, however there was hypothesis in 2015 that Northrop Grumman had taken the gamble of constructing one to assist it win the profitable deal. Such a prototype would nearly definitely bear secretive testing in a location just like the Nevada vary.
This story initially appeared in news.com.au