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USS Vincennes incident 1988


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#1    living to die

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 01:17 PM

hi, i have been a member of UM for a while now. I only like to browse the forums and not put in much input (as you can tell from my post count tongue.gif) but will do so in the future.

i am a sailor in the Royal Australian Navy and this incident which occurred in the Persian Gulf in the year 1988 involving the US Navy has interested me a lot. Here's the story: (a lot to read i know)

http://everything2.com/e2node/USS%2520Vincennes

Quote

On 3 July 1988, a plane is blown out of the sky over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people. Part of a hijacking? Yet another act of terrorism? No. Iran Air flight 655 was shot down by the United States Navy. The ship in question was the Aegis Cruiser the USS Vincennes.

The story
It was during the Iran-Iraq war, US naval vessels were helping to escort ships through the Persian Gulf. Iranian gunboats had been harassing and attacking oil tankers and other ships going to and from Kuwait, Iraq's main ally (ironically). In order to keep the oil moving, the US had its ships escorting them under the US flag. That morning, the Navy frigate Montgomery was escorting through the Strait of Hormuz—about 32 miles (51.5 km) at the entrance, which opens into the Gulf of Oman.

Around 6:50 AM (local time), it reported about thirteen Iranian gunboats were going after one of the tankers and that (about twenty minutes later) explosions were heard near one of the tankers. The commander of the Joint Task Force-Middle East ordered the Vincennes north of its position to investigate (yet still south of the situation). The ship was also to stay out of any "action"—the purpose was to have the ship's helicopter to do reconnaissance.

The helicopter approached, finding the gunboats harassing a German vessel. The commander of the Vincennes, Captain Will Rogers III, put his men on alert. Around 8:40, it was found that the ship had moved farther north (by about 40 miles/64.3 km) than it was supposed to and it was ordered to go south to its original position. Further, the Omani Coast Guard was also radioing the ship, stating that it was "not in accordance with innocent passage. Please leave Omani water". They gave warnings to the Iranians as well. A navy cameraman happened to be shooting videotape on the ship that day and caught the looks of dismissiveness on the faces of the officers as they ignored the Omani request.

Rogers did move the Vincennes but left the helicopter in the area to follow the gunboats, which began taking on antiaircraft fire. Rather than returning to the ship, the helicopter began "evasive action." When that message was received, Rogers had the ship rush north to the site. He felt that under the US rules of engagement, he was allowed to defend his helicopter (technically he was, but it was another piece of what became a fatal puzzle). At about 9:40, the ship crossed into Iranian territorial waters and engaged the gunboats.

Meanwhile, at Bandar Abbas airport, the Iran Air flight 655 was readying to take off for a routine flight to Dubai. The airport had a dual use, serving both civilian and military flights. Because of this (and the mounting "situation"), the unsuspecting airbus with 290 passengers was immediately listed as being "assumed hostile." The Aegis computer started tracking it. Its (scheduled) flight would cross over the Vincennes. (Interestingly, the USS Sides tracked it as a civilian plane, being the first to suggest that was what had been shot down.)

The Vincennes sent out IFF ("Identify—friend or foe") messages, getting no reply (see below). They also sent out seven "warning" messages, four on military bands, three on civilian (the USS Sides sent five of its own). Still no reply. Being a nonmilitary flight coming from an airport that had both civilian and military flights, would make it unlikely it would respond to a message on a military band and it was not uncommon for American queries to be ignored by civilian flights (reportedly, the navy would send warnings to just about any flight, regardless of their position or direction). Also, there was a lot of air control talk filling the various bandwidths. Further, the civilian tower at Bandar Abbas had not been monitoring the military one—they were not aware of the battle going on only 55 miles (88.5 km) away. Of course, one has to question why the plane would respond to "Iranian F-14, this is USN warship heading 199, 20 miles. Request you change course immediately".

At 9:51, an IFF "reply" was received. A military one. At that time it was upgraded to "hostile." It is likely that the reply came from one of the military planes at the airport—or elsewhere, given a range of 200 miles/321.8 km (apparently, the range on the IFF had not been reset as it should have been). One of the things in the minds of the crew of the Vincennes was the incident with the USS Stark, when an Iraqi Mirage accidentally shot the ship, killing thirty-seven crew members (after having been "warned" by the Stark).

When the plane (now thought to be an F-14) got within 20 miles (32.1 km) of the ship (about 10:00), two missiles were fired, destroying the plane and its passengers (it landed about 6 miles/9.6 km from the ship). One man on the ship, reportedly noted that the wreckage was too big to have been a small fighter. On the Montgomery, crewmen witnessed the wing (engine still attached) land in the sea. It was no F-14 (which probably couldn't have done significant damage to the ship as the planes sold to Iran by the US were built for attacking other fighters, not ground targets).

Cover-up?
The following day, the Pentagon held a news conference on the incident. After originally having flatly denied Iran's version of the event, saying that it had shot down an F-14 fighter and not a civilian aircraft, the State Department (after a review of the evidence) admitted the downing of Iran Air 655. It was claimed that the plane had "strayed too close to two U.S. Navy warships that were engaged in a battle with Iranian gunboats" and, according to the spokesman, that the "proper defensive action" was taken (in part) because the "suspect aircraft was outside the prescribed commercial air corridor" (Washington Post).

That it "strayed" from its normal, scheduled flight path is factually incorrect. And so was the claim that it was heading right for the ship and "descending" (emphasis, mine) toward it—it was ascending. Another "error" was the contention that it took place in international waters (it did not, a fact only later admitted by the government). Incorrect maps were used when Congress was briefed on the incident.

Crowe asserted that "we were extremely careful to keep Congress informed" and that "we notified Congress accurately and speedily of all our engagements—whether the news was good or bad." He admitted that "mistakes" were made that morning "and in the time that followed," but that "making mistakes is a long step from a deliberate 'cover-up.'" As for being in Iranian territorial waters (as noted, one of those "mistakes" presented to the public—Crowe claiming it was admitted to in the classified report to Congress), "a warship acting in self defense has the right under international law to enter the aggressor waters and defend itself." That the ship, under the rules of engagement, was "clearly permitted entering Iran's waters if his ship was under imminent threat or engaged." That the Vincennes was not under "imminent threat" (at least from the plane) or supposed to be actively engaging itself, seems forgotten.


Because they were relying on electronic monitoring (there was no visual confirmation of anything until it was hit), there was no way to distinguish the plane from a "hostile." On the other hand, planes from the carrier the USS Forrestal had been launched around 9:38, in case they would be needed (upon hearing the news of the helicopter taking fire). They were not to engage but could have been used to get a confirmation on the "hostile." As with the Sides, the men on the Forestall believed it to be a commercial flight and the planes were held back.

Rogers' misinterpretations/direct disobeying of orders (and requests from Oman) as well as his insistence on leaving the helicopter in the area were part of the equation. As was the helicopter remaining near the gunboats following its being fired upon. Once the helicopter could be extricated, a better choice of action would have been to disengage.

Commercial flights in the Gulf were not routinely monitored by the naval forces in the area (a fundamental error given the circumstances; it was corrected in the wake of the tragedy). Someone somehow missed the flight listing for 655 in the navy's schedule of commercial airline flights. At some point in the control room, someone reportedly "shouted out 'Possible COMAIR'": a commercial air line. Questions of whether there had been adequate training for the men also came up during the investigation. Information was available or relatively easily obtained. Safeguards should have been in place.

That replies from the pilot of the Iranian airplane could have defused the situation is also clear. But his actions were not alone in when eventually happened (nor was he wielding deadly force). The State Department placed a vast majority of the blame on the pilot (at least initially) as would be expected. On the Nightline program, Crowe spoke of the "Iranian role in the Airbus tragedy," charging that "there was no coordination between Iranian surface raiders and civil air authorities. The tower at Bandar Abbas airport did not monitor emergency frequencies and therefore failed to alert the pilots of the Airbus."

The US had compensated non-Iranian victims about 2.9 million dollars (not acknowledging any responsibility) but nothing to Iranian family members. In 1996, a 131.8 million dollar settlement was reached that included the ignored families (61.8 million). Seventy million was to be put into bank accounts and used to "pay off private U.S. claims against Iran and Iran's expenses for the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, which is handling the claims." The US stated it was for claims "involving banking matters, not the airliner," while Iran said that 30 million was for the plane (collegian.ksu.edu).


First i would like to talk about some of the roles in the operations room (ops room).

Air Picture Supervisor (APS)- The APS marks all the Air contacts on his combat system (RADAR display) and gives them a sign (Assumed friend, friend, assumed hostile, hostile etc.) and reports this to the PWO.

Principle Warfare Officer (PWO)- This guy supervises the APS (and pretty much all of the warfare related occurences in the ops room) and in the case of Vincennes the PWO should have checked and double checked the hostile contact and made sure that it was hostile.

What should usually happen is when a contact is tagged as hostile, it should be checked by the PWO and double checked by the AWO etc.

Now IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) is something that is emitted from a contact (in this case an aircraft) and tells the ops room if it is either a civilian or military contact. The APS should have received the IFF as being civilian but as stated in the story above, the airport was used by both military and civilian. So what most likely happened is that the APS picked up IFF from the wrong contact and did not double check it which was a huge mistake that the PWO should have rectified.

So now Vincennes had what they thought to be an F-14 coming towards them in retaliation to the fire fight between the helo and Iranian gunboats.

The captain of Vincennes therefore gave the order to fire on the suspected F-14 which i think was purely idiotic. When a ship locks onto a target that it is about to blow up with missiles the RADAR illuminates the target which in an F-14 would start bleeping alarms in the cockpit warning the pilot to get the hell out of the way. but the aircraft did not change course because it was not an F-14. they say they shot it down at 20 miles away which is way way way to close for any experienced fighter pilot to be. if the aircraft was indeed hostile and wanted to harm the Vincennes then it would have let go a few missiles a lot further away then at the range it was and then altered its course. But the aircraft kept on its course.

The Vincennes sent out radio transmissions on military frequencies and emergency frequencies etc to the aircraft but because this aircraft was a civilian airbus and not a military aircraft it did not receive the military transmissions. and so the Vincennes made a decision which cost the lives of 290 people 66 of which were children.

The Vincennes was in Iran territorial waters when they shot down this civilian flight and i put it down to the captain of the Vincennes to being to gun happy and entering Iran's territorial waters just to provoke the Iranian gunboats more.

the crew and the captain of the Vincennes received awards for their work that day in the gulf, and the American Government has still til this day, not made any apology or even admitted that they were in the wrong.

there are a few conspiracies about this day that are going around about the American Government Purposely Provoking the Iranians in their own waters to start conflict so that they could aid Iraq in their war against Iran etc.

Besides these conspiracies it could be put down to a lot of human error that just had a domino effect which ended in the loss of 290 civilian lives.

i want to know what everyone thinks about this and i'm not use to writing forum posts this in depth so please tell me if i have missed out anything you would want to know or if i have made any errors. and any questions ill be happy to answer or find out for you.

/Discuss

Other interesting links:
http://lockerbiecase.blogspot.com/2008/08/...nes-affair.html

http://www.serendipity.li/more/lockerb.htm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/s...000/4678707.stm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/07/03/i...g_n_110721.html


#2    Unknown Rebel

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 03:55 PM

Well something obviousley went very wrong that day, but it seems to have been a catastrophic series of events that led to the demise of 'Iran Air flight 655'.
Surely American systems (of the day, 1988) would have been sophistcated enough to identify a civilian flight, which i thought carried a permanent identifier signal both in the form of a repeated code and as on all civilian planes a flashing green light on the exterior. This case reminds me of the Korean airliner which was shot down by soviet planes in 1983.


#3    living to die

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 08:36 PM

Геро
on Sep 16 2008, 04:55 PM, said:

Well something obviousley went very wrong that day, but it seems to have been a catastrophic series of events that led to the demise of 'Iran Air flight 655'.
Surely American systems (of the day, 1988) would have been sophistcated enough to identify a civilian flight, which i thought carried a permanent identifier signal both in the form of a repeated code and as on all civilian planes a flashing green light on the exterior. This case reminds me of the Korean airliner which was shot down by soviet planes in 1983.


hi, USS Vincennes was a very efficient ship even by todays standards. it is still an elite unit 20 years on. i think it is to ignorant to put it down to human error when you have more experienced senior sailors on the ship who should have prevented this from happening, and then you have a captain that obviously wants a fight and therefore i don't think he cared the slightest if that plane was hostile or not. Maybe he just wanted to blow something out of the sky.


#4    Unknown Rebel

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Posted 16 September 2008 - 09:05 PM

living to die on Sep 16 2008, 09:36 PM, said:

hi, USS Vincennes was a very efficient ship even by todays standards. it is still an elite unit 20 years on. i think it is to ignorant to put it down to human error when you have more experienced senior sailors on the ship who should have prevented this from happening, and then you have a captain that obviously wants a fight and therefore i don't think he cared the slightest if that plane was hostile or not. Maybe he just wanted to blow something out of the sky.



Which makes it human error then, i highly doubt even a trigger happy person would even make it as a Captain yet alone be able to fire upon any target he wishes.

It think the Captain was more concerned about the welfare of the chopper that was having to take evasive action rather than picking fights with the far inferior Iranian craft.

Edited by Герой Советского Союза, 16 September 2008 - 09:07 PM.


#5    living to die

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Posted 17 September 2008 - 02:28 AM

Quote

Which makes it human error then, i highly doubt even a trigger happy person would even make it as a Captain yet alone be able to fire upon any target he wishes.

It think the Captain was more concerned about the welfare of the chopper that was having to take evasive action rather than picking fights with the far inferior Iranian craft.


the captain of the Vincennes was ordered to stay south of Irans waters. there is no evidence which indicates the Iranian gunboats fired upon the chopper only word of mouth from the pilots to the Vincennes. The captain could have easily had the chopper disengage from the gunboats and return back to ship but instead traveled into the Iranians own waters and started a fire fight with the gunboats.

The welfare of the chopper was obviously not the priority of the captain (if that were the priority then wouldn't the captain have called the chopper back to the boat and back into international waters?), the priority was retaliating to a suspected act of war from the gun boats, and remembering that they did not know the aircraft that was coming towards them was an inferior aircraft as they thought it to be an F-14 Iran fighter jet coming to help defend the gunboats which supposedly fired upon the chopper.

Also take into account that the chopper went into the Iranians territory and was flying near the gun boats which i suspect intimidated the inferior boats somewhat. Just remember this all happened in Iran Territorial waters. Imagine if a foreign country with the military influence such as America parked its ships right next to your Territorial waters and then sent a chopper in and then send a ship in to engage your people. I think if any other country did that to America then it would be considered an act of war especially if a civilian aircraft were shot down in the process. Just remember the captain of the Vincennes was ordered to stay in international waters.

You also say that "i highly doubt even a trigger happy person would even make it as a Captain", take a look at Americas last president George Bush and what he had to say when asked to apologise to the Iranians for the attack: (at the time vice president) "I will never apologize for the United States ... I don't care what the facts are ... I'm not an apologize-for-America kind of guy". Also let me tell you, i know a lot of people in the Australian Navy that are so bad i wonder how they could have made it to their rank. so i don't think you should doubt that a gun happy person could make it to captain because i know it is highly probable that it can happen.

Also the only reason the captain had permission to fire upon the aircraft was because he gave all the wrong facts to command about the aircraft being hostile and descending towards the ship etc when these facts were all wrong. And i believe the captain would have some idea that these facts were indeed wrong when he passed them onto command for permission to destroy the aircraft.

edited spelling mistakes*

Edited by living to die, 17 September 2008 - 02:32 AM.


#6    Unknown Rebel

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Posted 17 September 2008 - 09:53 PM

Well firstly there are no International Waters in the Gulf, (International Water being defined as any body of water, more than 3 miles from the coast of any recognised state, unless granted otherwise.) Secondly, there are the Rules of Conduct which state that 'you may not fire, unless fired upon', Thirdly the Iranians are reknown for 'Tweaking' their borders beyond recognised boundries, such as the recent incident of the 15 British Sailers detained.

The Helicopter would have a black box which if stated was under fire at any point would be subject to full review, also the Captains actions must be defined by the rules of war, i do not see how a 'Red October' scenario could occur where an American Captain aboard an armed battleship could start personally blowing targets out of the sky. Obviousley a mistake was made somewhere along the line, accidents do happen, unfortuantely this had fatal consequences.


#7    living to die

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 01:45 AM

Геро
on Sep 17 2008, 09:53 PM, said:

Well firstly there are no International Waters in the Gulf, (International Water being defined as any body of water, more than 3 miles from the coast of any recognised state, unless granted otherwise.) Secondly, there are the Rules of Conduct which state that 'you may not fire, unless fired upon', Thirdly the Iranians are reknown for 'Tweaking' their borders beyond recognised boundries, such as the recent incident of the 15 British Sailers detained.

The Helicopter would have a black box which if stated was under fire at any point would be subject to full review, also the Captains actions must be defined by the rules of war, i do not see how a 'Red October' scenario could occur where an American Captain aboard an armed battleship could start personally blowing targets out of the sky. Obviousley a mistake was made somewhere along the line, accidents do happen, unfortuantely this had fatal consequences.


please tell me where i made it seem like i said The captain could just blow anything out of the sky. He, the captain gave false info about the aircraft to higher command and therefore got permission to shoot the aircraft out of the sky. if this was simple human error then one has to ask themselves what kind of training American combat system operators go through. because it isn't that easy to just confirm an airliner to be a military fighter jet acting hostile and then just blow it out of the sky. There has to be more to it then simple operator error.


#8    Unknown Rebel

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 08:58 AM

living to die on Sep 17 2008, 03:28 AM, said:

You also say that "i highly doubt even a trigger happy person would even make it as a Captain", take a look at Americas last president George Bush and what he had to say when asked to apologise to the Iranians for the attack: (at the time vice president) "I will never apologize for the United States ... I don't care what the facts are ... I'm not an apologize-for-America kind of guy". Also let me tell you, i know a lot of people in the Australian Navy that are so bad i wonder how they could have made it to their rank. so i don't think you should doubt that a gun happy person could make it to captain because i know it is highly probable that it can happen.

Also the only reason the captain had permission to fire upon the aircraft was because he gave all the wrong facts to command about the aircraft being hostile and descending towards the ship etc when these facts were all wrong. And i believe the captain would have some idea that these facts were indeed wrong when he passed them onto command for permission to destroy the aircraft.

edited spelling mistakes*


Here you go, your theory is that the Captain of the Vincennes Deliberately Falsified Information to be able to fire upon a target.


#9    living to die

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 02:03 PM

Геро
on Sep 18 2008, 09:58 AM, said:

Here you go, your theory is that the Captain of the Vincennes Deliberately Falsified Information to be able to fire upon a target.


Read my first thread lmao, i say that he was given false info by his crew in the ops room which he then gave to higher command to shoot down the civilian flight. And any captain would have suspected that the information was a little suspect because if the aircraft were a hostile fighter jet then it would have clearly shot a few missiles off and not went near the ship to be shot down. the captain and the crew should have realised this and now America knows the real story and their government has tried to cover it up and has yet to apologise for the lives of the innocent people lost.


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Posted 18 September 2008 - 02:12 PM

living to die on Sep 16 2008, 09:36 PM, said:

i think it is to ignorant to put it down to human error when you have more experienced senior sailors on the ship who should have prevented this from happening, and then you have a captain that obviously wants a fight and therefore i don't think he cared the slightest if that plane was hostile or not. Maybe he just wanted to blow something out of the sky.



living to die on Sep 18 2008, 03:03 PM, said:

Read my first thread lmao, i say that he was given false info by his crew in the ops room which he then gave to higher command to shoot down the civilian flight. And any captain would have suspected that the information was a little suspect because if the aircraft were a hostile fighter jet then it would have clearly shot a few missiles off and not went near the ship to be shot down. the captain and the crew should have realised this and now America knows the real story and their government has tried to cover it up and has yet to apologise for the lives of the innocent people lost.


Well you change story in each of your posts, from it being Huaman Error, to  Ignorant to think it was human Error, to it being Human Error again. The only thing laughable is you not being able to get your own story straight.

Edited by Герой Советского Союза, 18 September 2008 - 02:18 PM.


#11    living to die

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 02:19 PM

Quote

Well you change story in each of your posts, from it being Huaman Error, to Ignorant to think it was human Error, to it being Human Error again. The only thing laughable is you not being able to get your own story straight.


uhh my head hurts. look it is human error for the junior sailor that made the mistake but whats the excuse of all the others? it was not human error for the captain to give the go ahead to blow a plane out of the sky when any normal person would know that these were not characteristics of a hostile aircraft. your trying to jumble everything i say.

Edited by living to die, 18 September 2008 - 02:25 PM.


#12    Unknown Rebel

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 03:19 PM

living to die on Sep 18 2008, 03:19 PM, said:

uhh my head hurts. look it is human error for the junior sailor that made the mistake but whats the excuse of all the others? it was not human error for the captain to give the go ahead to blow a plane out of the sky when any normal person would know that these were not characteristics of a hostile aircraft. your trying to jumble everything i say.


No im trying to make sense of it.


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Posted 18 September 2008 - 04:09 PM

living to die on Sep 18 2008, 09:19 AM, said:

uhh my head hurts. look it is human error for the junior sailor that made the mistake but whats the excuse of all the others? it was not human error for the captain to give the go ahead to blow a plane out of the sky when any normal person would know that these were not characteristics of a hostile aircraft. your trying to jumble everything i say.

What you are saying is only part of the story too.

Much of the defense systems on this ship are automated. At the time, this equipment was very new to all involved as well, so you do have to take into account the learning curve involved. The information passed to the captain was accurate as far as the sailor passing it on could tell.

Remember, Iran has been known to use civilian aircraft in military operations. The jet-liner in question was, to the best of my knowledge, electronically identified as a combat air craft. It failed to respond to radio communications, and it's IFF signal never indicated it was a civilian aircraft. It COULD be that an Iranian military aircraft was flying extremely close to the jetliner in an attempt to mask itself, knowing full well that American Aegis class cruisers could detect and lock on to them at great distance.

Keep in mind, this was after the Stark was attacked, and NO American ship wanted to be the next one to get destroyed by an inferior Navy or Air Force. This has actually happened more recently, when small boats attempted to "buzz" American warships. This prompted an immediate and violent response.

To blame teh Skipper of the ship as you do is foolish. He does bear ultimate responsibility, however, to imply he did it like you say here:

Quote

Maybe he just wanted to blow something out of the sky
...is a great stretch.


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#14    living to die

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Posted 19 September 2008 - 03:14 AM

eqgumby on Sep 18 2008, 05:09 PM, said:

What you are saying is only part of the story too.

Much of the defense systems on this ship are automated. At the time, this equipment was very new to all involved as well, so you do have to take into account the learning curve involved. The information passed to the captain was accurate as far as the sailor passing it on could tell.

Remember, Iran has been known to use civilian aircraft in military operations. The jet-liner in question was, to the best of my knowledge, electronically identified as a combat air craft. It failed to respond to radio communications, and it's IFF signal never indicated it was a civilian aircraft. It COULD be that an Iranian military aircraft was flying extremely close to the jetliner in an attempt to mask itself, knowing full well that American Aegis class cruisers could detect and lock on to them at great distance.

Keep in mind, this was after the Stark was attacked, and NO American ship wanted to be the next one to get destroyed by an inferior Navy or Air Force. This has actually happened more recently, when small boats attempted to "buzz" American warships. This prompted an immediate and violent response.

To blame teh Skipper of the ship as you do is foolish. He does bear ultimate responsibility, however, to imply he did it like you say here:  ...is a great stretch.


yeah you make a good point. thanks.

btw the yanks are a headache to work with they do things alot different to us tongue.gif


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Posted 19 September 2008 - 03:33 PM

living to die on Sep 18 2008, 10:14 PM, said:

yeah you make a good point. thanks.

btw the yanks are a headache to work with they do things alot different to us tongue.gif

I felt the same about the Brits... thumbsup.gif
We actually learned a lot from them, and I think them from us. And they do know how to party! I watched a guy chug a beer through his dirty sock for a free drink.

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It's not about tolerance and it's certainly not about searching for truth. It's about the chic of the intelligentsia. ---  Harmon-E Cherry
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