Why Did Our Perfectly Good Airplane Decide to Fall Onto Libya?

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March 28 2011 10:47 PM

Why Did Our Perfectly Good Airplane Decide to Fall Onto Libya?

President Barack Obama had many


to deliver about Libya tonight—the war started at the best possible time, the war is basically over now, our goals have been met, etc.—but he also made a point of mentioning a small, heartening fact: that "one of our planes malfunctioned over Libya."

Just a little mechanical trouble, not any sort of casualty of war! The armed forces were quick to identify an "

" as the reason the plane in question, an F-15E Strike Eagle, went down outside Benghazi a week ago. It's pretty much always an equipment malfunction, even when

to figure out what might have malfunctioned. Our planes don't get shot down, even when they're flying combat missions.

Fine. Let's say they never get shot down. So: why did one crash? Each F-15E Strike Eagle cost

in 2011 dollars. It's kind of embarrassing to think that a ragtag dictatorship could shoot one out of the sky, but isn't it more alarming for it to fall out of the sky on its own?

The whole F-15 fleet was grounded in November 2007, after an

while flying over Missouri. The pilot went on to

on the grounds that the plane was defective.

Tom Scocca is the managing editor of Deadspin and the author of Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.