U-2 Pilot Dies in Southwest Asia Crash
A U.S. Air Force U-2 spy plane involved in a mission in Afghanistan crashed while returning to its base in the United Arab Emirates, killing the pilot, the military said Wednesday. U.S. Central Command said the crash occurred in “southwest Asia,” a term that can be a substitute for the Middle East.
The fact that CENTCOM is reporting this would also serve as a major clue that this occured in the Middle East. For that matter, it’s unclear what else “Southwest Asia” would refer to, since most of the Middle East is in the southwestern part of Asia.
In Washington, Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said the plane had completed a mission related to Operation Enduring Freedom 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. 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.
A sad loss. It’s amazing that the U-2 still remains in the inventory, given that it’s first pilots are now grandfathers, even great-grandfathers.