A U.S. Air Force surveillance aircraft crashed in Taliban-held territory in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, Fox News reported.
The aircraft in question was a Bombardier-produced E-11A — a military version of the civilian Global Express business jet — that carried “less than five people” on board at the time of the accident, according to an unnamed senior U.S. military official.
Jet crashes in Ghazni province
The crash occurred around 1 p.m. local time in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province and was initially thought to have involved a civilian passenger jet operated by Afghanistan’s Ariana Airlines. However, the airline quickly made it clear that none of its flights had crashed.
Later, pictures and video from the crash site led to the conclusion that it was an Air Force E-11A based on distinguishable USAF markings on the wreckage.
Col. Sonny Leggett, spokesman for U.S. Forces–Afghanistan, confirmed in a tweet on Monday: “A U.S. Bombardier E-11A crashed today in Ghazni province, Afghanistan. While the cause of crash is under investigation, there are no indications the crash was caused by enemy fire. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.”
Taliban claims that additional aircraft have crashed are false.
— USFOR-A Spokesman Col Sonny Leggett (@USFOR_A) January 27, 2020
Crew status remains unknown
CNBC reported that it is believed everyone on board the aircraft perished in the crash, but the outlet noted that Air Force Gen. David Goldfein, chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, admitted: “We don’t know the status of the crew.”
Goldfein further indicated that initial reports of such incidents out of Afghanistan were almost invariably wrong and in need of correction once all of the facts had been established, and he vowed to provide as much information about the incident as possible once those specifics had been learned.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, speaking to reporters during a Pentagon briefing on Monday, said only that he was “aware of the situation” and had “nothing further to report at this time.”
Prayers for the victims
CNBC noted that the E-11A is a small passenger jet that has been converted to serve as an electronic surveillance aircraft that also helps transmit communications across the rugged terrain between ground units, command posts, and other aircraft and assets in the region. It is part of the Air Force’s 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron based out of Kandahar Airfield.
Hopefully, the cause of the crash will be quickly determined by investigators and it can be confirmed that the aircraft was not shot down by the Taliban.
In the meantime, we offer up our prayers and condolences for the victims of the incident and for their loved ones.