WASHINGTON -- An unmanned U.S. spy aircraft has crashed in Afghanistan, U.S. military officials said Monday, in a reminder that one of the most important new technologies in the war against terrorism is only partially developed and fragile.
The RQ-4A Global Hawk that crashed during a routine flight Sunday was rushed into the theater in November to help U.S. forces track enemy fighters. Pentagon officials say the Global Hawk and the older, lower-flying RQ-1 Predator drone will be central to their effort to track down Islamic militants in South Asia and around the world.
But the crash, which occurred for reasons that are unclear, means that U.S. forces have lost one of two Global Hawks they had in the theater. Several Predators also have crashed in surveillance missions in Afghanistan and Iraq since the war began, analysts say.
The losses come at a time when Pentagon officials have expressed concern that their worldwide anti-terror campaign will be crimped by the limited availability of the surveillance aircraft.
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