EDWARDS, AFB -- Investigators are trying to determine why an F-22 fighter jet crashed near Edwards, Air Force Base, killing a Lockheed Martin test pilot .
The company said in a statement Wednesday that the pilot was 49-year-old David Cooley.
The F-22 Raptor, one of the Air Force's top-of-the-line fighters, crashed around 10 a.m. Wednesday, 35 miles from Edwards AFB in an area known as Harper Dry Lake.
First responders transported Cooley from the crash scene to Victor Valley
Community Hospital in Victorville, where he was pronounced dead.
The jet, assigned to the 411th Flight Test Squadron of Edwards' 412th Test Wing, was on a test mission, said Air Force Maj. David Small at the Pentagon.
Cooley, of Palmdale, was a 21-year Air Force veteran who joined Lockheed Martin in 2003.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of David and our concerns, thoughts and prayers at this time are with his family," the statement said.
"This is a very difficult day for Edwards and those who knew and respected Dave as a warrior, test pilot and friend," said Maj. Gen. David Eichhorn, the Air Force Flight Test Center commander.
The radar-evading F-22s each cost $140 million and are designed for air dominance.
The warplanes can carry air-to-air missiles but are capable of ground attack as well.
The $65 billion F-22 program is embattled, with some opponents contending that a different warplane under development, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, is more versatile and less costly at $80 million per plane.
F-22s were grounded for two weeks after one crashed at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada in December 2004.
They were cleared again to fly after a review, and an Air Force statement at the time said
officials were "highly confident in the design, testing and development" of the aircraft.
The pilot in that crash successfully ejected.
The U.S. is committed to 183 F-22s, down from the original plan laid out in the 1980s to build 750.
Its prime contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp., says there are 95,000 jobs at 1,000 companies connected to the F-22.
A spokesman for Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin referred all calls about the crash to the Air Force.
Lockheed is trying to convince the Pentagon to buy as many as 20 more F-22s.
The military is expected to signal its intentions when the 2010 Defense Department budget is released next month.
The F-22 is able to fly at supersonic speeds without using afterburners.
That allows it to reach and stay in a battlespace faster and longer without being easily detected.
The fighter, powered by two Pratt & Whitney engines, is 62 feet long, has a wingspan of 44½ feet and is flown by a single pilot.
Test Pilot Dies in F-22 Crash Near Edwards AFB
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