Rumors continue to swirl around the mysterious death of Lt. Col. Eric "Doc" Schultz near Area 51 on September 5th. Various theories exist, including one that says he was the commander of the elite and shadowy "Red Hats" squadron that secretly flies foreign tactical aircraft for test and training purposes. Make sure to read all about these theories here.
Now a report has emerged from the Russian website Radio Moscow claiming that a famous Russian test pilot was not only in contact with Schultz shortly before the crash, but that he warned him of executing certain maneuvers while flying Russian hardware.
Magomed Tolboyev is one of Russia's most prominent aviation figures. He served as a decorated test pilot during the Cold War, testing many types of high performance and exotic aircraft, including the Soviet space shuttle Buran. He has since been given the title Hero of Russia and has worked with many Russian civil and military aviation firms since the fall of the Soviet Union. Most recently Tolboyev was named the honorary president of the biannual MAKS airshow—Russia's largest aviation and arms expo. Suffice it to say, if it flies in Russia, Tolboyev knows something about.
The report says the Schultz and Tolboyev were in contact as recently as a month before Schultz's death. Tolboyev is quoted as stating (Google translation):
"I talked with him, I told him a month ago: do not do what we do. I showed him dead loops, but said: do not do this. It's only our plane, dear, we know what to do with it. First you need to know what you're on. The Cossack is only a Cossack on his horse.
I just warned them: you can not do this. The difference is 1 degree, exactly one degree. He was a good guy, he flew well, his fate is as follows. He was experienced, no questions asked. We must pay tribute: American pilots and English - great pilots, we appreciate them and never badly do not speak of them as professionals.
But there are some subtleties very deep, only we, the test pilots know them. I told him: "you'll perish, you can not do what I do." This is the line."
Exactly how the supposed contact between the two test pilots was administered remains unclear and there are no indications if it was official or unofficial in nature, if it really even occurred at all.
We also don't know exactly what maneuvers Tolboyev is referencing or what aircraft, but Russia's latest Flanker variants, such as the Su-30 and Su-35, are the most maneuverable operational fighters in the world. They are capable of incredible acrobatics when flown by specially trained pilots.
The Pentagon has a number of Su-27s in its clandestine inventory, but there is no proof that more advanced Flanker derivatives, such as those that feature thrust vectoring, like the Su-30 and Su-35, have been acquired. Nor are there any clear indications that existing Su-27s in the USAF's secret stable of foreign fighters have been modified to perform in a similar fashion to those more advanced Flanker derivatives.
But that doesn't mean either scenario is impossible. Still, the tactical advantages that could be gleaned from clandestinely procuring an advanced Flanker, or modifying an existing Su-27 to perform like one, seem somewhat limited when compared to the effort, risk, and cost likely required to execute such a program.
On the other hand, if this report proves to be even partially valid it will be yet another indication that Schultz was indeed involved in Foreign Materiel Exploitation (FME) programs and the Area 51 based Red Hats squadron.
We will keep you updated on this story as it continues to unfold.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com