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U.S. pilotless spy plane lost over Iraq, Pentagon sources say

Iraq TV showed pictures of wreckage it said was from a U.S. spy plane that it had shot down.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Pentagon sources tell CNN that an RQ-1B "Predator" unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has been lost over Iraq's southern no-fly zone and may have been shot down as Iraq claims.

The small, $3.2 million pilotless spy plane failed to return from a routine reconnaissance mission and may have crashed or been shot down, according to the U.S. Central Command.

The drone aircraft is 27 feet long, about 7 feet tall and weighs 950 pounds empty.

Iraq claimed to have shot down a U.S. reconnaissance plane near Basra, 300 miles south of Baghdad, and said it would show pictures of the aircraft on state television.

RQ-1B 'Predator'
Wingspan: 48.7 feet  
Speed: Up to 140 mph  
Range: Up to 400 nautical miles  
Ceiling: Up to 25,000 feet  
System cost: $25 million (1999 dollars)  
Message Board: Iraq  

A statement from the Central Command said the United States has no plans to recover the aircraft and that no sensitive technology will be compromised by the loss of the spy drone.

Pentagon officials said the Predator uses mostly so-called off-the-shelf technology, which is not classified.

During the 1999 NATO bombardment of Kosovo, more than a dozen U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles either crashed or were shot down over hostile territory, including four Air Force Predators, seven Army Hunters and four Navy Pioneers, according to the U.S. military.

Pentagon officials said all manned aircraft returned safely from Iraqi no-fly zone patrols Monday, including patrols in the north where U.S. planes attacked an SA-3 surface-to-air missile site in response to Iraqi anti-aircraft fire north of Mosul.

Iraq's state-run news agency reported Monday that one person was killed and three people were injured in that attack.

An unmanned RQ-1B
An unmanned RQ-1B "Predator" vehicle similar to the one pictured may have been shot down in Iraq.  

Iraq has been increasingly aggressive in its attempts to shoot down U.S. or British planes, but no pilots have been lost in the more than 350,000 sorties flown over the Iraqi no-fly zones in the past 10 years, according to Pentagon officials.

Since December 1998, the U.S. Central Command reports 1,010 separate incidents of Iraqi surface-to-air and anti-aircraft artillery fire directed against U.S. and British planes, including more than 375 this year. Iraqi aircraft also have violated the southern no-fly zone more than 160 times since December 1998, the command said.

U.S. and British aircraft monitor the northern and southern no-fly zones, which were put in place following the 1991 Persian Gulf War as part of an effort to prevent the Iraqi government of President Saddam Hussein from persecuting minority Shiite Muslims in the south and the Kurdish population in northern Iraq.

• Iraqi National Congress

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