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WASHINGTON (AP) _ An unmanned U.S. spy plane crashed in Pakistan on Wednesday, U.S. officials said.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the cause appeared to be engine failure rather than hostile fire.
It was the second Global Hawk aircraft to crash since the war in Afghanistan began last October. The first, in late December, went down in an undisclosed country near Afghanistan. The Air Force said last week that an accident investigation pinpointed structural failure as the cause of that crash. The investigators traced the problem to an improperly installed bolt that caused a control rod to fail.
The officials said U.S. troops had been dispatched to the crash site in Pakistan to examine the wreckage.
The Air Force has only a small number of Global Hawks. The exact number is secret.
The Global Hawk is still in development. Eventually it is expected to replace the Air Force’s U-2 spy plane, which has been operating worldwide since the 1950s.
The Pentagon made the unusual decision last fall to use the Global Hawk in connection with the war in Afghanistan even though it had not completed normal developmental tests. Among its uses: finding targets for U.S. strike aircraft.
The Global Hawk is much larger than the Predator, an unmanned aerial vehicle also at work in Afghanistan. The Predator flies at much lower altitudes than the Global Hawk and provides real-time video images of ground targets. An armed version of the Predator can fire Hellfire anti-armor missiles.