'System error' link to RAF deaths


Failure of a vital electronic system on both an RAF Tornado and a US missile battery contributed to a fatal "friendly fire" incident in Iraq.
Tornado crew Flt Lt Kevin Main and Flt Lt David Williams were killed when the Patriot missile downed their aircraft.

Electronics which identified the Tornado GR4, based at RAF Marham in Norfolk, as "friendly" had failed, an RAF board of inquiry has found.

The missile battery then misidentified the plane as an enemy rocket.
The rest of the article makes interesting reading. Now, i'm not a Fighter Jock or a Patriot shooter , but one or 2 bits in the article seem iffy.

The first thing that comes to mind, wasn't this aircraft one of a 2 ship recovering?

So you have one squawking correctly, and another contact in trail flying on the same course and possibly airspeed , and you shoot at it?

Sorry I'm over-simplifying trying to get my head round this.

Maybe a Tonka Mate or Rocketeer or somene in Airworks could comment?
But PTP makes a good point. Remember that the Septics had completed their investigation within about 10 minutes of the incident occurring, and came to the usual conclusion that none of their people were to blame.

This smells of MoD not wanting to criticise the Septics.

If it had been a single a/c I would have put it down to the IFF being supplied by the lowest bidder....
Having talked to some RAF chaps about this and the feeling was that the whole thing stinks of a coverup by the US. The US troops in question were allegedly ill-trained, incompetent and panicking because some minor unpleasantness had ocurred near their base. One source even had them cowering in a bunker with the kit left switched to auto.

Equally, they knew the kit mis-identified aircraft as missiles - the Tornado was exactly where it should be for a returning aircraft - none of the many other sensors out there had identified a launch. Bluntly the spam in charge panicked and pressed the button when he should have used his brain for a few seconds and over-ridden the automatics.

Totally avoidable, and the way the US has obfuscated over the incompetence of the troops involved and the MoD has accepted that without a murmur does not bode well for future joint operations. And I actually like the Americans.
You're right there PTP, the downed aircraft was the second of a pair recovering to Ali Al Salem in Kuwait. The lead aircrew actually saw the missile go past them! As far as I know there was no 'SCUD alert' in force at the time.
I heard a story like o_O_t_S, but that the spams were fast asleep with it left on auto, and that the unit was misconfigured, thus the SAM engaging a aircraft in the 'safe' zone. How much of that is true i am not sure, but one thing is for sure, the spams in question are dip shits.


It does seem to fit in with the Septics' complete refusal to admit that their troops could ever do anything wrong, until they have photos of Lynddie England and her dog lead on the front pages. IIRC, the pilots who bombed the Canadian SF patrol in Afghanistan - who were up to their eyeballs in officially issued speed - got away with it, as did the A10 crew which nailed the HCR in Iraq last year. Going back a bit further, their first instinct was to cover up the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, and even after some of the truth had emerged and Lt Calley had been court-martialled, he was sentenced to house arrest and subsequently pardoned by Nixon. I hope we are a bit more honest about our cock-ups, but sometimes I wonder...
As an AWACS back ender who's flown sorties (and operated alongside the US military) in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, sadly this does not surprise me.

Modern ROE are extremely complex documents, normally running into many hundreds of pages long. It is the operators DUTY to know them inside out and back to front. However, even if the Tornado met such ROE, it did not make sense to shoot. The incident ocurred 3 days into the war, the Iraqi AF had neither made an appearance nor were expected to do so, even had they flown, the chances of an ARM attack were remote given that F-15 and Tornado CAPs were sitting over their airfields 24/7. Additionally, the 'bogey' (as the Tornado would initially have been identified) had flown deep into coalition held territory, past at least one high value airborne target (an E-2C), and had closely trailed a friendly squawking aircraft without attacking anything. This should have suggested that it was a friendly as any Iraqi pilot would have wanted to fire his missiles and get the hell out of dodge ASAP.

Shit happens in war. Aircraft come back with systems unserviceable due to battle damage or the aircrew forget to select them due to the pukka factor. You have to allow for that. Cruise missiles, US stealth packages and numerous US spec ops aircraft do not squawk iaw the SPINS. If the RAF E-3D crews would have authorised engagement of every one of these we saw during TELIC, we'd have been having several frats against US assets each night.

The sad thing is it is a US mindset to shoot first and ask quaestions later. I've seen it in all the theatres I've flown in (during Kosovo, my crew stopped a USAF AWACS authorising engagements of friendlies on 2 consecutive nights; a fact they then tried to deny). After the Canadian infantry/F-16 incident in Afghanistan, we got invited in to ROE 'workshops' that the Spams set up to check peoples understanding. It was scary to see just how often every Spam in the room (and we're talking B-1B, E-3 and RC-135 crews) said 'shoot' in scenarios where they had no right to do so. I'm proud to say that the RAF crews got it right everytime.

In my experience, one of the biggest things from an E-3 perspective during ops is STOPPING gung ho US aircrew from releasing weapons against targets that do not meet the ROE. Some of their guys are good, but the sad majority have a John Wayne approach to the application of lethal force.

Everytime I work with them, I have less respect for the Spams and, frankly, I trust the French more than I do the US military.

i have a few problems with this,as air defender. ok i am cad (close air defence) but we still have weapon control order's and free fire went out the window years ago. to say it was a system error to say's that no one was over looking the system. and a tornado flight path and an in coming baslisic missle path would be some wot different. i think what i am trying to say is the same as most people have said cover up.
There is no doubt whats so ever.

It was a cover Up :x

Similar threads

Latest Threads