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Friday, 6 July, 2001, 04:31 GMT 05:31 UK
Spy plane back in US
Russian Antonov 124 cargo plane lands at Dobbins Air Base, Georgia
A giant Russian cargo plane brought the pieces back
The dismantled parts of the US Navy spy plane which collided with a Chinese fighter jet in April have been flown back to an air base in the southern United States.

The EP-3 surveillance plane parts were carried by a chartered Russian Antonov-124 cargo plane to Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia.

The 1 April collision and subsequent detention of the EP-3 plane and its crew on Hainan island in southern China triggered a tense stand-off between the US and China.

The plane will now be inspected to see if it can be reassembled and returned to service.

Two members of the 12-member Lockheed engineering team
Lockheed Martin engineers dismantled the spy plane

"We're fairly confident that the plane is salvageable," said Greg Caires, a spokesman for the manufacturers Lockheed Martin.

The plane's return may now pave the way for an improvement in China-US ties.

The impasse over the collision ended only after Washington said it was "very sorry" that the pilot of the Chinese jet had died and that the US plane had landed without permission.

Passions cooled after the crew of 24 was released, but China refused to allow the plane to be flown off Hainan island, though engineers said the plane could be repaired.

Damage

US Navy experts estimate that structural repairs will take eight to 12 months.

The collision damaged two of the EP-3's engines and one of its four propellers. It also caused the plane's nose cone to break off, and pieces of metal punctured parts of the fuselage.

US security personnel will also examine the plane, which was loaded with surveillance equipment, to assess what data the Chinese may have obtained.

US officials have said the crew destroyed much of the plane's surveillance equipment and erased sensitive data soon after landing.

But the Pentagon has acknowledged that some secrets were lost from the plane.


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See also:

03 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
14 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
10 Jun 01 | Europe
07 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
04 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
03 May 01 | Americas
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