Navy EP-3 Plane to Come Home Disassembled
By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 29, 2001 Chinese officials have agreed to return the damaged Navy EP-3 plane they've held on Hainan Island since April 1 -- in pieces.
The Navy surveillance plane collided in mid-air with a Chinese fighter April 1 (March 31 in the United States) and made an emergency landing on Hainan shortly after. U.S. officials had sought to repair the plane on Hainan and fly it home, but the Chinese rejected the idea.
Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. Craig Quigley told reporters May 29 that disassembling the plane would be more costly and time-consuming than repairing it and flying it out.
As a compromise, the United States will partially disassemble the plane and bring it home in a Russian AN-124 cargo plane. Quigley said an AN-124 would be leased from an unspecified country because none are in the U.S. inventory.
"At the end of the day, we're glad to get the airplane back in a condition that it can be repaired and used again," Quigley said in a Pentagon briefing. The large size of the AN-124 allows the EP-3 to remain intact enough that it can be repaired after it is back in the United States.
The admiral said disassembly and reassembly of the $80 million EP-3 would be "complex," but preferable to transporting it in a smaller plane. That, he said, would probably damage the EP-3 beyond repair.