The U.S. Navy says a pilot was killed when a U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18C crashed at a U.S. Navy range training complex roughly 70 miles east of NAS Fallon.

The crash happened at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 1st. After hours of searching in the mountainous terrain, they found the plane. They say the aircraft is a total loss. The name of the pilot is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Retired Navy Commander Gerry Gallop served three tours at TOPGUN and says even though you know the risks, it's always hard to lose a fellow pilot. "My condolences to the family that's involved, it's just a terrible loss, " Gallop said.

Gallop explained that TOPGUN is designed to take very accomplished Navy and Marine Corps pilots and make them better. Those pilots take their advanced knowledge and instruct other pilots in the fleet.

The training at N.A.S. Fallon is conducted at high speeds, often with several jets flying in formation. "You've got radios, radar, radar warning receivers; there's a lot coming through the data link," Gallop said. "You may be maneuvering the airplane, you may be reacting to threats," he added.

TOPGUN moved to northern Nevada where the ranges look very much like the terrain in Afghanistan and Iraq. "The advantage of the terrain here is it also resembles a lot of the terrain we're flying over around the world," said Gallop.

Several years ago, we flew on a mission with TOPGUN, where officials told us the pilots are multi-tasking the entire time. "You're making tactical decisions on how you're going to employ, you're interpreting rules of engagement, you're making decisions all the time. All while flying along at eight to ten nautical miles per minute," Gallop explained. He told us safety rules are a major aspect of the training too. "They're there to make sure we can get maximum safety and maximum training at the same time," he said.

Gallop says becoming a military pilot or a TOPGUN pilot takes commitment and sacrifice. "Flying to the best of their ability, they believe in the mission and serving their country." And he said the high level of excellence is what prepares military pilots to deploy into harm's way, he said.

"When the U.S. decides to enforce foreign policy beyond diplomacy, the request will end up going to the U.S. military and in many cases the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, and that will come down to the people flying the airplanes that we're talking about," Gallop said.

The Navy is investigating the crash to find out what caused the mishap.

Written by Jennifer Burton

The U.S. Navy says the aircraft was on loan to the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center for use as a training aircraft, and was performing a training flight when it went down.

The cause of the crash has not been determined. The plane was not carrying any weapons on the training flight.

Officials say there are no reports of any other injuries or property damages from the crash.

Today Governor Brian Sandoval issued the following statement on the Navy pilot who was killed in a fighter jet crash during a training exercise.

"It is with a heavy heart we learn of the death of the military pilot whose aircraft crashed this weekend.  This incident is a sad reminder of the dangers our military men and women are faced with every day.  Kathleen and I extend our deepest sympathies to the friends and family of this fallen hero."