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F-22 fighter crashes in Florida, pilot unhurt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter crashed on Thursday at Florida's Tyndall Air Force Base, but the pilot ejected safely and was unhurt, a base spokeswoman said.

The F-22 Raptor, one of the most advanced U.S. warplanes, was returning from a routine training mission when it crashed about 3:30 p.m., spokeswoman Ashley Wright said.

The Lockheed Martin Corp plane caught fire when it hit the ground, but firefighters quickly put out the blaze, she said. The cause is under investigation.

Nearby Highway 98 was closed for about two hours as a precaution. The pilot, who was not identified, did not suffer any major injuries, Wright said.

The Air Force stopped flying the F-22 for five months in 2011 after some pilots grew dizzy at the controls. The Air Force blamed a shortage of oxygen delivered to pilots.

Two F-22 pilots told CBS' "60 Minutes" program this year they had stopped flying the fighter because of worries about safety.

The Defense Department said in July the Air Force was starting actions to lift flight restrictions over time, with most long-duration flights to resume this past summer.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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