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Massive search underway in Alaska for missing F-22 pilot

By Larry Shaughnessy, CNN Pentagon Producer
  • NEW: The crash site was found between two mountains
  • NEW: Searchers made it to the wreckage but could not find any sign of the pilot
  • The pilot was on a routine nighttime training mission
  • The F-22 was based at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska

Washington (CNN) -- Searchers have found the wreckage of an F-22 Raptor fighter jet that was reported missing Tuesday evening, but as night approached Thursday they still didn't know what happened to the pilot.

A public affairs officer at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, where the jet was based, said the crash site was found near a creek bed in between two mountains. That made it particularly to get search and rescue crews into the scene.

A small number of searchers were able to make it to the site approximately 100 miles north of Anchorage before dark Wednesday, but the wreckage was in such a condition that they were unable to find any sign of the pilot.

By Thursday afternoon, the Air Force still hadn't established if the pilot was killed in the crash or ejected safely and is in the wilds of Alaska facing sub-zero nighttime temperatures.

"We have launched a massive and concerted effort to find the pilot," said John Pennell, a public affairs officer at Elmendorf.

The search involves the Air Force, Army, Alaska National Guard and even Alaska highway crews who are plowing roads near the crash site to help get search equipment into the scene.

"It's taking hundreds of people to get dozens of rescuers to the scene," Pennell said.

But the weather is not cooperating. There's one road between the base and the crash site and that is not normally maintained. Two convoys of Army and Air Force vehicles carrying equipment and troops had to stop Thursday in the town of Cantwell, Alaska, because snow had blocked the highway. They hope to get the convoys rolling again Friday morning.

Department of Defense policy prohibits the release the name of the pilot while the pilot's status is undetermined.

CNN's Larry Shaughnessy contributed to this report