People read the claims of IRGC top brass in shooting down spy planes
with much skepticism. However, as much as it may be news to general
public, such possibilities are not at all uncommon in defence circles,
blogs and military forums. One such topic has been the crash of US cold
war era spy plane U2 in UAE in 2005 during landing. The news was nothing
out of the ordinary for general public but it was a different
discussion in defence circles.
Here is the original news back in June 23, 2005:
US spy plane crashes in UAE
US pilot killed in US Air Force U-2 crash when trying to land at Dahfra air base near Abu Dhabi.
ABU DHABI – The pilot of a US Air Force U-2 spy plane was killed when
he crashed the high-tech aircraft trying to land at an air base in the
United Arab Emirates, US officials said Wednesday.
The US Air Force has named an interim investigation board to determine the cause of the
crash, the first ever of a U-2 in the US Central Command’s area of
operations, air force officials said in Washington.
“There was no indication of hostile fire,” said a US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The pilot, who was a member of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, was not identified pending notification of next of kin.
“The airmen of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing mourn the loss of a true American hero in
the service of his country,” said Colonel Darryl Burke, the 380th’s
The plane crashed as it was approaching to land at the Dahfra air base near Abu Dhabi in the
United Arab Emirates, the US defense official said.
In a statement on the crash, the US military would not say where the crash occurred, citing “host nation sensitivities.”
But UAE’s state news agency WAM reported that the US plane crashed on landing at an air base in the emirates.
The news agency noted that “the United States has an agreement with the United Arab Emirates
which allows it to use some of the military installations in the
“We have an ongoing investigation,” Major Kelley Thibodeau, a spokeswoman for the US Air
Force Central Command said. “There is a team of Air Force members that
will determine the cause of the mishap. They will meet and conduct an
investigation to determine the cause.”
The US military said the plane was returning from a mission in support of Operation Enduring
Freedom, which generally refers to US military operations in
US forces have been fighting a resurgence of the Taliban along Afghanistan’s border with
Pakistan. The area also has been kept under close surveillance for signs
of Al-Qaeda and its top leaders.
Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his number two, Ayman Zawahiri, are widely believed to be
hiding in Pakistan’s rugged tribal areas.
The U-2 is a Cold War legend that lives on as the air force’s premier surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.
The single seat, single engine plane flies at altitudes over 70,000 feet (21,336 meters),
transmitting imagery or signals intelligence in near real-time.
The last time one crashed was January 26, 2003 near Osan Air Base in South Korea. Its
pilot tried to glide the plane to the base after suffering catastrophic
engine failure during a high altitude mission.
The pilot ejected safely seconds before the plane hit the ground, destroying a house and injuring three people.
There were 22 major mishaps involving U-2s between 1963-1996, a third of them in the 1990s,
according to GlobalSecurity.Org, a Washington-based research group.
The air force considers the U-2 the world’s most difficult plane to fly.
Its long narrow wings allow it to lift quickly to altitudes so high that pilots must wear
full pressure suits similar to those worn by astronauts.
It has limited forward visibility because of its long nose and requires precise control inputs during landing.
“A second U-2 pilot normally chases each landing in a high performance vehicle, assisting
the pilot by providing radio inputs for altitude and runway alignment,”
an air force fact sheet on the plane says.
U-2s have been in service since 1955, and the best-known incident involving one was when
Francis Gary Powers was shot down on May 1, 1960 over the former Soviet
The incident led to the collapse of a proposed summit conference between the United States,
the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France in Paris.
US president Dwight Eisenhower’s initial claim that he had no knowledge of such flights was
undone when the Soviets produced Powers, who had survived the crash.
He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but released in 1962 in exchange for convicted Soviet spy Rudolph Abel.
However this seemingly “innocent” news raised a lot of legitimate questions in defence
circles that the US government has
yet to address and they are:
– What was the reason that compelled the US to use a U2 spy plane over Afghanistan?
This plane is designed to fly in altitudes of over 70,000 feet primarily to scape SAM range of enemy territory such as USSR. Afghanistan, by all definitions, is an occupied territory by the US and the only known air defence systems in the Taliban inventory are nothing but short range AAA and shoulder launched SAMs called MANPADs. With that, the US air force rules the skies of Afghanistan and any other US reconnaissance assets such as
specially equipped RECON jet fighters or a single very sophisticated UAV could have done the job easily and far cheaper.
– Why the need to fly from UAE bases?
US can virtually use any Pakistani air force bases closer to Afghanistan
as done before and now or US could have used all its bases in
Afghanistan for such a mission having no need to use Pakistani bases nor
UAE bases so far away.
These questions would be answered with only one conclusion that the mission was over Iran and not Afghanistan. That is why some think that the plane was over Iran when it was hit by Iranian SAMs. The damaged plane swooped down from its high altitude to land at its UAE base where it was unsuccessful and crashed killing the pilot.
The recent news in the major US media has puzzled me. When I refereed to the news on Iranian news sites such as Fars News, I only managed to find references to Shooting down of spy planes and not “two unmanned planes” as mostly claimed by the Western press. Even if there was such a hint in Iranian media, why did the Western media totally miss the following?
Iran Shoots Down Several Foreign Spy Planes
The shooting down of US or coalition UAVs by Iran is not news at all. In fact there has been references to such activities before by Iranian government that did not make it to western press as widely as the recent claims by IRGC top brass claims has. Here are a couple:
Past & Current UAS Activities in Iran
Did Iran Shoot Down An Unmanned U.S. Aircraft?
Why would the US hide the facts? or for that matter, why would Iranian government not announce specifically the downing of the US plane? Well, why would they admit anything openly? For Iran, it was probably sufficient to send a message to US military that such flights are not tolerated and politically why would the Iranian government want to disturb the peace?
For the US, like Iran, the breaking of such news would have major consequences. it could force the US to militarily engage Iran at the time that it could not afford yet another costly war to say the least. Besides, one can take a note how some news get twisted on political interests by reading the following document from Wikileaks in blaming an Iranian UAV for intruding Yemeni airspace when it actually was a US navy UAV:
UNMANNED USG AIRCRAFT WASHES ASHORE, OFFICIAL
The claims by IRGC officials were taken as jokes before on numerous occasions until they were no laughing matter no longer. This time could be yet another time when the IRGC will have the last laugh!