New Details on Mysterious Crash of Lt. Col. Eric “Doc” Schultz Near Area 51 Emerge

Su-27 side view.

Unnamed Sources in Published Report Suggest Pilot May Have Been Flying Russian Aircraft.

In a story published late Monday, September 11, 2017 on, new information has been revealed about the type of aircraft that USAF Lt. Col. Eric Schultz, call sign “Doc”, may have been flying at the time of his mysterious crash 100 miles Northwest of Nellis AFB in the Nevada Test and Training Range.

Speculation about the crash was fueled by Air Force media releases that did not indicate the type of aircraft that was being flown by Lt. Col. Schultz on Tuesday, September 5, 2017 when the accident occurred. There was also a delay in the story reaching news media that raised further questions since the accident was reported after another, unrelated accident involving two A-10s, was reported sooner.

File photo of Lt. Col Eric “Doc” Schultz. (USAF Photo) correspondent Guy Norris wrote late Monday, September 11, that, “Sources indicate Schultz was the Red Hats squadron commander at the time of his death. The Red Hats became an unnumbered unit within the Detachment 3, AFTC test wing after the 413th flight test squadron (formerly 6513th test squadron) was deactivated in 2004. Over recent years the unit has operated a variety of Russian-developed combat types, including the MiG-29 and several Sukhoi-developed models such as the Su-27P, one of which was recently observed flying in the vicinity.”

The photos of the SU-27P referred to by Guy Norris on first appeared on on January 6, 2017 when we published the shots taken by Phil Drake from Tikaboo Peak outside Groom Lake, Nevada, on November 8, 2016 between 3:00 and 3:25 PM local time.

Photographer Phil Drake told, “I took my camera out and photographed the ensuing dogfight between the Flanker and a F-16.  The sortie seemed to consist of a head-on intercept, conducted at descending altitudes from 30 down to 20 thousand feet, and after each intercept a turning dogfight ensued after they had flashed past each other.

The highly maneuverable Flanker was a single seat version, a Su-27P, and it pulled out all of its best moves to get behind the F-16. I watched in awe as the pair fought it out for 25 minutes before they both climbed to altitude and flew back into Groom Lake restricted airspace. My scanner remained silent throughout the whole encounter.”

[Read also: Russian Video Of Captured U.S. F-5 Tiger Jet Dogfighting Against MiG-21 in Tests Raises Question: Do They Still Operate American Jets?]

Guy Norris’ story on also reports that, “Given the approximate location provided by the Air Force, it appears the accident occurred midway between Groom Lake and Tonopah Test Range airfield, both of which are operated by Detachment 3, Air Force Test Center (AFTC). The site is responsible for test and evaluation of classified “black” aircraft as well as foreign types which are flown by the Red Hats for tactics assessment and dissimilar training against front line Air Force units.”

Pilots of the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron, a unit tasked with testing opposing forces aircraft and tactics, pose for a photo published in the public domain. The unit was known to fly in the region where Lt. Col. Eric Schultz likely crashed. (Photo: USAF)

The Air Force has not provided any additional information on the specifics of the Lt. Col. Eric Schultz crash except for the famous tweet quoting USAF Gen. David L. Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, who, on Saturday morning, September 9, told, “I can definitely say it was not an F-35.”

A map of the test ranges where the Phil Drake photos were taken. (Map:

Whether the U.S. Air Force will follow-up with additional information in the crash of Lt. Col. Eric Schultz is unknown. If Lt. Col. Schultz was involved in testing, evaluation and training with opposing forces aircraft in a classified program that remains ongoing the information may never be released. Additionally, the accident, if it did involve non-U.S. opposing forces aircraft, may compel the Air Force to change its opposing forces training program as seen in the now famous Phil Drake photos of the Su-27 outside Groom Lake.

Top image credit: Phil Drake


About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on,, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.


  1. Only utter imbeciles claim that just because Abrams is blown up then it means it’s a poor machine. It’s clear as a day that tanks are operated by crews that make the difference up to a point. Turks lost 10 Leo 2s in 1-2 days. Russians and Syrians lost 1 T-90 in a year to the same opponent. Does that mean that T-90 is is leagues ahead of Abrams used by Iraqis and Saudis and Leo 2 used by Turks? Will we, following your logic, say that everything Turks and Iraqis say are excuses?

    My statement on Abrams was always that it isn’t an invincible all-conquering tank but a machine that needs to be used correctly according to what its strengths and weakesses are. Because incorrect use will also get it killed. Old comment of “Russian tanks are just a jack in a box” was spectacularly proven to apply to all tanks. With Abrams and Leo-2 losing turrets to explosion of battle load. HE-FRAG ammo will do it to ANY tank, bustle with blow-out panels or not.

    USA exports Abrams tanks and says that they do not feature DU inserts and thus have lower resistance. Soviets exported tanks with no composite armor. Deliberate degrading of export model. Same goes for all the fighter aircraft they exported. Gen-4 airframe with gen 3 level avionics.

    Ask any fighter pilot or tank commander/gunner would having a modern well-maintained vehicle, up-to-date fire-control system and secure comms mean a difference in combat? I promise you US pilots would tell their commander to go somewhere far if he told them to fly a combat mission with an inoperable radar, inoperable ESM, no ground support and in a barely air-worthy plane against an enemy in latest versions of well-maintained fighters and with newest missiles with AWACS support. Suicide if nothing else. You should know that latest and best fighter airframe without operational combat system is useless (Serbian MiGs). You should know that without modern fire control system, modern armor and modern rounds tank is useless (Iraqi Asad Babyl). If Serbian pilots had 25 hours per year back then they were lucky.

    If I were to give you an old AK with a crooked sight, warped barrel and no stock you’d be hard-pressed to shoot well when compared to a brand-new out-of-the-box M-16.

  2. To date Western missiles were used mostly by those that actually have their heads and hands screwed on right and with correct battle-appropriate tactics :) Also looked after them and maintained them as required. And then there are users of Soviet and Russian equipment that leave Air-to-air missiles and laser-guided rounds out in the elements for months and years. Indians, Arabs and Africans spring to mind. Indians even tried to claim warranty and manufacturing faults. Somehow I don’t see USAF, USMC, USN, Israeli Air Force and Western European militaries leaving such rounds filled with sensitive electronics under open skies, rain hail or shine. That’s exactly what Indians and Africans did. Any wonder that missiles failed or didn’t perform as advertized? Also helps when pilots get to a good shooting position.

  3. You still don’t understand that it is army vs army not 1 vs 1 computer plane. Take on Russian army and you will see how good or bad your army is.

    • The Russian Army is a paper bear. Nothing the U.S. and NATO couldn’t deal a fatal blow to in less than maybe a month or two. A little longer to go all the way to Russia’s Far East.

      Then of course a million troops or so to maintain control. We could then sell the Far East back to China. After all, Russia stole it from the Chinese anyway.

      Combined with our far superior air power, Russia wouldn’t stand a chance. The Russian Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Spetznaz would be crushed. This isn’t 1940, and the U.S. military isn’t the German Whermacht.

      • You can’t deal even with freaking ISIS. Russia with very limited army contingent in a very limited timeframe made ISIS cry for help.

        You were bombing Yugoslavia for nearly 3 months from all directions and could barely deliver any damage to their military and nearly ran out of ammo. Destroying civil infrastructure, including Chinese embassy, is all you were good for. You were scared to put boots on the ground. Look up ex-Yugoslavia/Serbia on the map and then look up Russia. Look up their armies too.

        Also you would have hard time to rellocate all your planes unnoticed from the other part of the globe. Any Euro nation that would allow you to use their airfields would be suicidal. Same with soldiers and tanks, it would take you months to transfer all tanks. Sorry dude but you are too naive and ignorant.

      • US military is indeed not Wermacht. Wermacht, had it concentrated on the Western front and not had to fight on Eastern Front would have smashed your army and USAAF. When Germans actually decided to put up a fight they smashed you as they did after Dresden bombing. Even with only junior officers (captain and below) left in charge in Normandy they gave you hell in those beaches.

        • And in 1945 the US would have dropped a nuke on Belin. Game over! We were destined to win the war from 1939 – the minute Roosevelt received that letter from Albert Einstein.

          Personally I think we should have dropped one on Moscow too. Told them to vacate Eastern Europe, as they promised to do, or be destroyed. Then demanded inspections of the whole country in perpetuity to make sure they never developed their own A-bomb. Same thing with China. Oh well. An opportunity missed.

  4. These are ex-Ukrainian air force Flankers with no weapon systems or an old one from back in Soviet days. They had been overhauled and sold to USA by Ukraine. Those guys sell anything and everything to anyone.

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