The Department of Defense has confirmed that an Air Force U-28A—a plane dedicated to shadowy spec ops—crashed over Djibouti this weekend, killing all aboard. Nobody yet knows what took the commando plane down.
Djibouti, Voice of America explains, is home to Camp Lemonnier, the only official military base in Africa—though there are other installations operated out of the public eye. So what was the U-28A doing? DoD says it was a "routine flight," but American spec ops in Africa have recently ramped up their activity, combating pirates and suspected terrorist groups with stealthy operations in conjunction with drones. According to the USAF, those aboard—part of the 319th Special Operations Squadron, which dates back to WWII—"Conducted training programs in special air warfare tactics and techniques for USAF and foreign air forces; provided airlift support to U.S. Army Special Forces; and provided intratheater support for special operations since 2005."
The U-28A they were piloting perfect for this kind of nimble killing, designed to take off and land under harsh conditions—no runway needed—and crammed with advanced communications gear. All while looking like just another commuter plane. But this, it's safe to say, was no ordinary commuter plane. [VoA]
Update: The DoD now says the four airmen died "supporting Operation Enduring Freedom"—the war in Afghanistan. So how exactly were they supporting the war in Afghanistan from Djibouti?