24 October 2008
US spy plane crashes in North Cotabato
By Al Jacinto

Filipino and US authorities kept the incident secret until 'Minda News,' a local online news site, filed report.
ZAMBOANGA CITY: A US military spy plane crashed in North Cotabato province where Filipino troops are battling Muslim rebels, reports said.

The unmanned aerial vehicle crashed October 18 on a neighborhood in the town of Pikit after hitting a row of coconut trees. Filipino and US authorities kept the news of the crash secret until a local online news site, Minda News, filed a report about the ill-fated unmanned aerial vehicla (UAV).

It said the UAV, whose wingspan was about eight feet, crashed at night near the house of a certain Eusebio Camancho. Policemen quickly recovered the wreckage of the spy plane and returned the next morning to collect debris of the ill-fated UAV.

"There was no explosion, just a loud thud," Minda News quoted Camancho as saying.

The UAV is believed to be one of many spy planes used by US forces deployed in the Mindanao. US troops are helping Filipino military defeat terrorism.

Camancho said the UAV was made of silvery metal and grey materials, whose parts included rubber tubing and wirings. Its body, he said, measures about 12 inches only. Police and military declined to comment about the crashed UAV. US embassy and military officials also did not give any statement about the unmanned aircraft.

It was not the first time that a US military UAV had crashed in the southern Philippines. In 2006, villagers in Sulu province held for ransom a crashed unmanned US drone used by the military in tracking down Abu Sayyaf militants whose group is tied to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah.

The remote-controlled spy plane crashed February 10 in the mountain enclave of Marang in Indanan town. Local television news showed footage of a villager holding the ill-fated UAV, whose wingspan was about one meter long and has a slim body and a video camera mounted on its belly. The villagers demanded P100,000 in exchange for the unmanned aircraft.

Another US unmanned spy plane also crashed in November 2007 during a practice flight in Mount Tumatangis in Sulu. It was unknown if the drone was found or not, but the crash was never reported to the press. In March 2002, a US spy drone called predator also crashed into the sea off Zamboanga City. The UAV went down for a still unknown reason and was also recovered.

The US military has a fleet of various unmanned spy planes, from a palm-size remote-controlled aircraft, to bigger and sophisticated high-altitude; long-range remotely piloted vehicles designed for long-endurance photographic reconnaissance and electronic surveillance missions, and as attack air crafts. The US military had used a Philippine Air Force base in Mactan Island in Cebu province as station of its fleet of Orion spy planes.

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