U.S. special operations plane crashes in Djibouti killing four crew members

On Feb. 18, 2012, a U.S. spy plane crashed six miles from Djibouti International Airport during “a routine flight.” As a consequence, all four U.S. military personnel on board, belonging to the 319th and 34th Special Operations Squadrons, and to the 25th Intelligence Squadron, both based at Hurlburt field, Fla., died.

The accident occurred around 8.00 PM LT.

As usual in similar cases, a special investigation team has been dispatched to determine the cause of the crash.

Noteworthy, the doomed military plane was a U-28A; the U.S. Air Force has 21 such aircraft to perform intra-theater transport of small numbers of special operations troops.

The U-28A (where “U” prefix stands for “utilitarian”), purchased at a unit price of 3.5 million USD from the Swiss company Pilatus, is a militarized version of the PC-12. Although much similar in terms of basic design as the civilian plane, the U-28A is equipped with special navigation equipment, weather radar and other undisclosed equipment.

The plane has a crew of two (even if  can be flown by one pilot only) and it is able to operate from short and unimproved runway surfaces

According to the information released by the Air Force Special Operations Command, depending  on the internal configuration, the aircraft can carry up to nine passengers, or about 3,000 pounds of cargo.

Hard to say what the type of mission the aircraft was flying from Camp Lemonnier, a U.S. forward operating base involved in the recent Special Forces raid to free two Western worker in Somalia, but, according to the first rumors, it looks like the aircraft did not crash as a consequence of any hostile act.

Pilatus U-28A (PC-12) BQN Airport PR

Image credit: Flickr/Roberto Gonzalez

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.