THE DAILY NEWS OF LOS ANGELES

DATE: SATURDAY  July 12, 1986
EDITION: Valley  SECTION: News  ZONE: rop  PAGE: 1  LENGTH: MEDIUM
ILLUSTRATION:  Map
SOURCE:  Daily News Staff and Wire Services
DATELINE:  LOS ANGELES

CRASH OF AF FIGHTER CLOAKED IN SECRECY

    An Air Force pilot, believed flying one of the military's most 
secret weapons, was killed early Friday when the jet crashed 12 
miles northeast of Bakersfield.
     Experts in military technology said the plane was a Stealth 
fighter aircraft that eludes radar and other sensors.
     Air Force officials, abandoning their usual policy, refused 
to discuss details of the 1:50 a.m. accident, which ignited a 150-
acre brush fire in a remote corner of the Sequoia National Forest. 
The fire was contained by 8 a.m. Military authorities declared the 
crash site a national defense zone, unapproachable except by 
authorized personnel, and barred commercial and private aircraft 
from flying over the area.
     Authorities confirmed that the pilot, whose identity was 
withheld, was the sole occupant of the aircraft and that there 
were no weapons on board.
     Gen. Michael McRaney, head of public affairs for the Air 
Force, said the plane was not a bomber.
     The weapon experts, who asked anonymity, said the crash 
involved a plane that variously has been called the F-19 or the 
Stealth fighter. Its development by the Lockheed Corp., reported 
many times in newspapers and technical publications, has never 
been confirmed by the military.
     According to ''Jane's All the World's Aircraft,'' the F-19 is 
believed to have a 31-foot 8-inch wingspan and the entire aircraft 
is 16 feet 5 inches wide when the wings are folded back for speed. 
The aircraft reportedly is about 13 feet high and 59 feet long. 
The F-19, which weighs about 22,000 pounds, flies at an altitude 
of 65,000 feet and travels faster than twice the speed of sound.
     Officials at Lockheed in Burbank, as well as Northrop Corp., 
which is developing the Stealth bomber, refused to comment.
     The Kern County sheriff's and fire departments and the 
California Highway Patrol's Bakersfield office all remained silent 
about the crash. All three agencies were involved in the emergency 
until officials arrived from Edwards Air Force Base near Lancaster 
and imposed a news blackout.
     The U.S. Forest Service pinpointed the sight of the crash 
between Saturday Peak and the Ridgebar Campground, just west of 
the Kern River. The area, 12 miles northeast of Bakersfield at the 
mouth of Kern Canyon, lies in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. 
Cloud cover was heavy there overnight, according to the National 
Weather Service. The fire posed no threat to campers, Forest 
Service spokeswoman Irma Contreras added.
     Officials from Edwards, the closest base to the crash site, 
would not say where the plane had departed and where it was to 
land. Staff Sgt. Lorri Wray of Edwards public information office 
said further information about the pilot will come from 
Washington. Edwards is used to test advanced military aircraft.
     News reports and other sources have said the Air Force has 
based dozens of the Stealth project planes at a secret, remote air 
base in the Nevada desert.
     It is not known why the Stealth fighter would be flown in 
California. Most tests of the Stealth fighter are thought to take 
place at the*Groom*Lake*and Tonopah test ranges, near Nellis Air 
Force Base in Nevada.
     In 1984, the Air Force closed thousands of acres of land in 
the Groom Mountains of Nevada, citing national security reasons.
     The plane probably was being tested, not merely moved from 
one location to another, when it crashed, sources said. The tests 
are done at night so that the plane is not seen. In daytime it is 
parked under protective bunkers. When it is moved from one 
location to another it is carried in a C-5 military transport 
plane.
     The first prototypes of the Stealth fighter reportedly were 
built in the mid-1970s, and the plane first flew in 1977, 
according to a book about Stealth aircraft by Bill Sweetman, a San 
Francisco writer, published earlier this year.

 CAPTION: Map: Plane crash site

 KEYWORDS: AIRPLANE; ACCIDENT; STEALTH; FIGHTER; AIR FORCE; DEATH; 
BAKERSFIELD; US; MILITARY
END OF DOCUMENT.