U.S. Air Force via AP file
This undated photo released by the US Air Force shows a U-2 spy plane similar to the plane that crashed Wednesday.
updated 6/22/2005 11:25:04 AM ET 2005-06-22T15:25:04

A U.S. Air Force U-2 spy plane involved in a mission in Afghanistan crashed while attempting to land at its base in the United Arab Emirates, killing the pilot, the military said Wednesday.

“The Airmen of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing mourn the loss of a true American hero in the service of his country,” said Col. Darryl Burke, the unit’s wing commander.

The wing has been based at the al-Dhafra air base near Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, since early 2002. The wing flies various types of aircraft, including aerial refueling tankers.

Burke appointed an interim investigation board to determine the cause of the crash. It was not clear when the results of the investigation would be completed.

Crash location not released
The location of the crash could not be released “due to host nation sensitivities,” U.S. Air Force Capt. David W. Small, a Central Command spokesman, said in an e-mail when asked for more information.

In Washington, Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said the plane had completed a mission and crashed while returning to its base.

A U.S. security team was at the site of the crash, he said.

The U-2 operates at an altitude of more than 70,000 feet, beyond the range of most surface-to-air missiles. It has been used by American forces for decades.

Earlier crash
In January 2003, a U-2 crashed in South Korea. The pilot ejected to safety, but four Koreans on the ground were injured.

A U-2 was shot down May 1, 1960, over Soviet territory while photographing Soviet missile installations. After parachuting to safety, pilot Francis Gary Powers was captured and later convicted as a spy. He was held for almost two years before being traded for a KGB captive.

Air Force spy planes have used the UAE base since the start of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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