—Michael C. Sirak
Oct. 27, 2008—The tally of Air Force aircraft lost to date in the Global War on Terror, counting from Sept. 11, 2001, is 65. This includes 23 manned platforms and 42 unmanned aerial vehicles, according to data provided by the service.
Seven of these airframes—three manned and four UAVs—were lost in direct contact with the enemy (e.g., shot down, crashed while attacking). They are considered combat losses.
The remaining 58 went down during sorties supporting the combatant commander in executing and sustaining anti-terror operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere globally. Together with the combat losses, they form a group collectively known as contingency losses. Generally, when Air Force officials speak of war-related losses, they are really describing contingency losses.
The manned contingency loss breakdown is: one A-10A, two B-1Bs, one B-2A, one C-5B, one C-130H, one F-15E, four F-16s, two HH-60Gs, two MC-130Hs, one MC-130P, six MH-53s, and one U-2.
The unmanned losses are: 39 MQ/RQ-1 Predators, one MQ-9A Reaper, and two RQ-4A Global Hawks.
Of these contingency losses, the seven direct combat losses are: one A-10A, one F-16, one MH-53, two MQ-1s, and two RQ-1s. The MQ-1 is the armed variant of the Predator that carries two Hellfire missiles for ground attack. The RQ-1 is the earlier, unarmed variant carrying only cameras for surveillance.
Contingency losses do not include the numerous aircraft that the Air Force has lost stateside and overseas since 9/11 in training accidents and flight operations not directly in support of a combatant commander.
Also of note is that an aircraft doesn't have to be in a combat theater at the time that it goes down to be considered a contingency loss. And, not all aircraft that have crashed in Southwest Asia are considered contingency losses. It depends on the particular mission that the aircraft was executing at the time of the crash.
For example, Air Forces Central told the Daily Report that there have been several UAVs lost in Southwest Asia during maintenance-check flights. Accordingly, they are not considered contingency losses.
Conversely, the C-5B that crashed stateside in April 3, 2006, after takeoff at Dover AFB, Del., is considered a contingency loss because it was on the first leg of a mission to transport cargo to Southwest Asia in support of efforts there.
Sometimes, the distinctions are a little murkier. For example, the B-2A on the list went down during takeoff on Feb. 23 from Andersen AFB, Guam. It crashed on its return trip with three other B-2As to the US mainland after a four-month rotational deployment to the Pacific island. The US military maintains a continual bomber presence on Guam to help deter aggression in the region.
AFCENT said this B-2A is considered a contingency loss because the aircraft was essentially still on call to support a combatant commander when it crashed.
Meanwhile, the Air Force does not consider the July 21 crash of a B-52H near Guam that took the lives of six airmen as a contingency loss. Although the B-52H was deployed to Guam on the same type of rotational basis as the B-2A, the B-52H was on a specific training mission at the time of its crash. Therefore, it is not considered a contingency loss.
Air Force Aircraft Lost in Combat Since 9/11
April 8, 2003
A-10A lost to hostile fire in Iraq
April 12, 2004
MH-53M lost to hostile fire in Iraq
Nov. 27, 2006
F-16C crashed during air-to-ground attack
Sept. 11, 2001
RQ-1 shot down over Iraq
Oct. 10, 2001
Dec. 23, 2002
MQ-1 shot down over Iraq*
March 28, 2003
MQ-1 shot down over Iraq
* The Air Force said the location of this loss was "not disclosed," but we believe that this Predator was shot down by an Iraqi Mig-25 in the Southern No-Fly Zone prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom. This shootdown was widely reported in the news at the time.Source: USAF
Air Force Contingency Aircraft Losses
Aircraft Lost in the GWOT Since 9/11
RQ-4A Global Hawk
Daily Report: The day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Tweets by @AirForceMag