Go to contents

US Spy Plane Crashes

Posted January. 26, 2003 22:44,   


At 2:58 p.m. yesterday, a US surveillance plane (U-2) crashed into a hill near Yakgongdan Gas Station, which is located in vicinity of Yakgongdan in Hwasong City, Kyunggi Province. It is believed the aircraft took off a U.S. air base in Osan, not far from the crash site in Hwasong City, south of Seoul.

Residents in the area said the plane, which was flying low, heavily damaged a house and an automobile repair shop. After hitting the house and the shop, the plane flew 30-40m further, and crashed into a hill, turning itself into a fireball.

The plane, spreading out its fragments in a diameter of 100m, injured three people on the ground. The injured were taken to nearby hospitals, are reportedly in stable conditions.

At the time of the crash, people were not in the house or the shop, pulling down the number of the injured. But the two buildings, due to the impact of the crash, got caught in fire and lost half of each.

The pilot of the plane got ejected right before the crash, and returned to the Osan base in a chopper dispatched by the US military.

Lee Jae-won (36), the owner of the repair shop, said, "I just came back only to find my shop and a house burning. I could not recognize the plane. It was totally shattered up."

Police officers and fire fighters were dispatched right upon the accident, and the fire was put out in 30 minutes.

A South Korean air force officer confirmed, "The US Command has informed us that the U-2 plane went down, while returning to the Osan base after completing its mission. The cause of the accident seems to be the engine failure. But, an investigation is being conducted by US and South Korean authorities, and the exact cause will be known later."

The Pentagon has deployed U-2 planes in South Korea to monitor North Korea`s military moves. In the past, the same plane got crashed in 1984 near the Osan base, and in 1992 into the East Sea.

Lockheed Martin, a US company, developed the plane in 1955 in a secret project. U-2 is supposed to conduct constant reconnaissance missions regardless of weather conditions through day and night. The U-2 is a single-seat, high-altitude, reconnaissance aircraft, capable of providing highly detailed imagery.

It could cruise at the speed of 475 mph (764 km/hr). Its ceiling is 70,000 feet (21,336 meters) and cruising range is more than 7,000 miles (11,260 km). Its fuselage reaches 19.2m in length, and 4.8m in height. The wings reach 31.39m.

It has never been sold to a country other than the United States. In 1960, a U-2 was shot down by a Soviet`s air-to-air missile. But, during the Dessert Storm and the Kosobo conflict in the 1990s, it demonstrated its value.

It has not been clearly known what devices are onboard the plane. Using its high-altitude flying ability hovering 80,000 feet, it penetrated Soviet Union`s territory 4 times in 1957, and reportedly took photographs.

bibulus@donga.com ysh1005@donga.com