U-2 spy plane crashes

The Pentagon refused to say where the high altitude aircraft went down, citing “host nation sensitivity”.

But the UAE’s state news agency WAM quoted an official source confirming the accident.

“A US Air Force U-2 plane has crashed while trying to land at an air force base in the United Arab Emirates,” said the source.

“US army authorities are investigating and the UAE is offering the required assistance for this matter.”

The agency noted “the United States has an agreement with the United Arab Emirates which allows it to use some of the military installations in the country.”

The Associated Press reported a Pentagon official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operation, confirmed the U-2 plane had crashed in the UAE while approaching the base to land.

In an earlier statement the US military said the plane crashed in “southwest Asia” after completing a mission in Afghanistan.

It gave no cause for the crash.

“We have an ongoing investigation,” said US Major Thibodeau.

“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 U-2 spy plane has been used in every major conflict the United States has fought since commencing service in 1955.

Operating at altitudes above 70,000 feet, it was developed to fly beyond the range of most surface-to-air missiles.

There are just 36 in the world, 29 being used by the US Air Force, five two-seat trainers and two used for high-flying NASA research.

Due to its design, the U-2 requires a high degree of precision during landing.

Forward visibility is limited, partly because of the extended nose.

A second pilot normally “chases” the U-2 while it lands, assisting the pilot by providing information on altitude and runway alignment.

A U-2 was famously shot down on May 1, 1960 over the Soviet Union and its pilot, Francis Gary Power, captured.

The incident led to the collapse of a proposed summit conference between the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France in Paris.

Mr Power was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but released in 1962 in exchange for convicted Soviet spy Rudolph Abel.