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Unmanned U.S. Plane Shot Down Over Iraq

BY Admin  December 23, 2002 at 1:45 PM EDT

The $3.7 million drone, which was conducting a reconnaissance mission, is considered a total loss, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers told a Pentagon news conference.

“They got a lucky shot today, and they brought down the Predator,” Myers said. He added that he does not view the incident as an escalation of the dispute between Iraq the U.S. over U.N. disarmament resolutions.

Officials said Iraqi planes penetrated the southern no-fly zone and fired on the surveillance plane.

Later Monday, an Iraqi military spokesman confirmed the shootdown in a written statement.

“With God’s help, and with the will of the men of our heroic air defense forces and brave sky eagles, [the U.S. plane] was shot down in a delicate and planned operation,” the statement said.

American and British warplanes have patrolled the no-fly zones since they were set up after the 1991 Gulf War to prevent Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from using his aircraft over northern and southern Iraq.

Iraqi air defenses have fired on U.S. and British warplanes patrolling the no-fly zones almost 500 times in 2002, the Associated Press reports. However most of these attacks come from surface-to-air missile sites on the ground rather than the Iraqi air force.

“This action is the latest chapter in a lengthy list of hostile acts by the Iraqi regime,” said Jim Wilkinson, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in Iraq and the Persian Gulf region.

Defense officials estimate that Saddam Hussein’s military has about 300 fighter aircraft, but U.N. sanctions have crippled the fleet by restricting the availability of spare parts.