Area 51 Crash Plane A Flanker?


Speculation about the mysterious fatal crash of an aircraft near the secret military test center known as Area 51 in Nevada earlier this month took a sharp left turn this week with several pundits suggesting the aircraft wasn’t American at all. The working theory among the highly specialized military journalists who keep an eye on this stuff seems to be that the aircraft Lt. Col. Eric Schultz, who was a senior F-35 test pilot, was flying was a Russian fighter, possibly a Su-27P, the single-seat version of the Flanker. It’s no secret really that the Air Force and others involved in developing tactics and equipment to combat those who might be enemies of the U.S. obtain and fly aircraft built by those potential enemies but the shroud of secrecy the Air Force put up fueled the speculation.

When the Air Force refused to identify the aircraft involved shortly after the Sept. 5 crash (after it had routinely reported the loss of two A-10s in the same area), the first speculation was that a new aircraft or a new model of an existing aircraft might be involved. Gen. David L. Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, told that he could “definitely say” that the aircraft was “not an F-35.” The speculation about the aircraft type comes from that reported in November that an Su-27P had been spotted dogfighting an F-16 in the same area and first released the accompanying photo.