CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar – A coalition A-10 "Warthog" warplane was shot down near Baghdad early Tuesday in what was believed to be the first downing of a coalition aircraft by an Iraqi surface-to-air missile.
The pilot ejected safely and was recovered by coalition ground forces near the airport, U.S. Central Command said. The pilot was reported to be in good condition.
Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, deputy operations director at Central Command, said military officials "believe it was hit by surface-to-air missile fire."
Another Central Command official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the plane appeared to have been shot down by Iraqi forces.
"Everything right now indicates it was hostile. There is no evidence to support it was not hostile," the official said.
Iraqi forces have downed at least two coalition helicopters — an Apache and a Black Hawk — but not using missile fire.
Navy Ensign David Luckett said if the Warthog was confirmed to have been downed by an Iraqi missile, it would be the first of the war.
"We have said all along that the surface-to-air threat was a valid threat and it illustrates the point that there is a lot of hard work to do," he said.
Lt. Mark Kitchens, also at Central Command, said recovery operations to retrieve the aircraft were under way.
"We're doing our best to determine the status of the aircraft, its condition and so on," he said.