Video: U.S. jet attacks UK convoy during Iraq invasion

posted at 10:05 am on February 6, 2007 by Allahpundit

It happened March 28, 2003, and only now, with the pressure on Tony Blair to step down as high as it’s ever been, is it being leaked. Quite the coincidence. The Sun doesn’t say where they got it, but it does quote a “senior U.S. military source” as saying, “This tape needs to get out. The pilots need to be brought to account.”

Six errors, according to the paper:

Circling at an altitude of 12,000ft, the A-10s spotted Iraqi vehicles 800 yards north, and the British patrol less than three miles west. ERROR ONE came when they asked the Forward Air Controller, call sign Manila Hotel, if friendly forces were around the Iraqi vehicles — not to the west. In ERROR TWO neither pilot gave the precise grid references for the Household Cavalry patrol to double check its identity.

ERROR THREE saw them convince themselves the identification panels were really orange rocket launchers.

In ERROR FOUR POPOV36 decides to attack, saying he is “rolling in” — without permission from the Forward Air Controller. POPOV35 asks for artillery to fire a marker round into the target area to clear up confusion.

But ERROR FIVE came when POPOV36 attacked without waiting for it. In ERROR SIX POPOV36 strafes the column for a second time but still doubts its identity.

It’s long but gripping, and of course devastating when the word comes about error. They actually tell the pilots while they’re in the air that there’s been a man killed. The action begins at around 5:15, but the drama starts a few minutes later at 7:30 when the dispatcher informs them that they’ve got friendlies in the area — moments after they’ve made a second run on the convoy.

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I watched that earlier this morning…gut-wrenching.

flipflop on February 6, 2007 at 10:14 AM

Does anyone know what the protocol for this sort of situation is? Friendly fire happens–it would seem (and perhaps I’m naive?) better to get it out in the open rather than attempt to hide it.

What exactly

The pilots need to be brought to account.”

does that mean?

honora on February 6, 2007 at 10:27 AM

In this age of GPS, this is unacceptable.

NRA4Freedom on February 6, 2007 at 10:32 AM

Pray for them all.

Buck Turgidson on February 6, 2007 at 10:44 AM

What exactly

The pilots need to be brought to account.”
does that mean?

honora on February 6, 2007 at 10:27 AM

I’m fairly certain that this means some form of public flogging. On the Mil side of the fence, I’m fairly certain that punishment was meted out. Either these pilots are running red-eyes for Delta, or they’re limited to “flying rubber dogshit out of Hong Kong”.

Kid from Brooklyn on February 6, 2007 at 10:49 AM

It has less to do with GPS and more to do with comms integration.

I think it’s interesting that we have very few Blue on Blue within the US military and it’s generally between US and our allies.

I think the program/protocol is called BlueTracker which helps us to know if any friendlies are in the area.

All the same, this (and all other FF incidents) is(are) a tragedy.

Kai on February 6, 2007 at 10:55 AM

Shouldn’t it be ‘Red on Red?’ The reason we call violence between local nationals ‘Green on Green’ is because they use mostly Russian made weapons with green tracers. NATO uses red tracers.

JasonG on February 6, 2007 at 11:00 AM

Very heartwrenching to watch.

Mr. Bingley on February 6, 2007 at 11:09 AM

Very tragic.

As far as a cover up is concerned, I’m sure these pilots have been ordered to keep quite about this. Both pilots are aware that they screwed up and are could be brought up on charges.

Were they careless? Yes. Wreckless? Maybe. Criminal? No way.

Other than for making a statement, any punishment will pale to what they must go through on a daily basis.

Pray for them all.

I second that sentiment.

csdeven on February 6, 2007 at 11:10 AM

Devastating. Completely gut-wrenching.

amerpundit on February 6, 2007 at 11:11 AM

they were also told there were no friendlies, so blame is shared with the command..

retired on February 6, 2007 at 11:15 AM

Check out the Sun’s article. They make it seem like it was intentional and the pilots had fun doing it.

amerpundit on February 6, 2007 at 11:19 AM

It’s easy to look at this and condemn the pilots. They were just targetting a convoy, there didn’t appear to be a firefight on the ground. And there was no possibility of having to fight with enemy aircraft. It would have been easy to wait for further confirmation.

Lest we forget, during the first Gulf War, we took out a convoy of our own Marines. It was after that, with NO Iraqi Air Force left, that we started placing the orange panels on top of our vehicles. It would not be that unreasonable for the Iraqis, knowing that they had no air support, to paint the tops of their vehicles with orange.

But just like the captain of a ship, the pilot is responsible when he pulls the trigger. I’m sure they have “been taken care of” already. I don’t know if that was jail time or not. But each of those young men will spend the rest of their lives with the knowledge that they killed their own.

We ask much of our warriors and give them little for the terrible things that they must do, and that we all benefit from. God bless them all.

TugboatPhil on February 6, 2007 at 11:20 AM

What exactly

The pilots need to be brought to account.”
does that mean?

honora on February 6, 2007 at 10:27 AM
The Sun would probably accept a public beheading — like good little dhimmis…

lan astaslem on February 6, 2007 at 11:20 AM

oops — messed up the blockquotes. Sorry.

lan astaslem on February 6, 2007 at 11:21 AM

Ah man, that’s the most depressing thing I’ve seen in months. Jeez man.

And how can anyone watch that and be calling for the pilots to be “brought to account”? Can they not see how hard those guys were trying to get it right? Jeez man they’re running out of fuel the whole time, trying to get the targets before they have to return to base.

Dwilkers on February 6, 2007 at 11:22 AM

Ah man, that’s the most depressing thing I’ve seen in months. Jeez man.

And how can anyone watch that and be calling for the pilots to be “brought to account”? Can they not see how hard those guys were trying to get it right? Jeez man they’re running out of fuel the whole time, trying to get the targets before they have to return to base.

Dwilkers on February 6, 2007 at 11:22 AM

Seems like something to beat up on Blair about. I need to stop watching the news in the morning, too depressing a way to start the day. God help us all.

honora on February 6, 2007 at 11:31 AM

those guys do need to be brought to account, but not by the media. Why didn’t our military take care of that? I mean, they can take care of a bunch of innocent terrorists who are being fed three squares a day and asked repetative questions.

Why not guys who are … actually innocent getting killed?

One Angry Christian on February 6, 2007 at 11:37 AM

The fog of war.

Zorro on February 6, 2007 at 11:48 AM

those guys do need to be brought to account, but not by the media.

One Angry Christian

That’s the truth.

War is hell…and this is only one reason why. It’s a side of war we don’t often think about or get to see in such detail as this.

JetBoy on February 6, 2007 at 11:55 AM

US (and her allies/NATO) have always been the Blue team.
OPFOR (ussr and warsaw) have always been the Red team.

I’ve never heard of Green on Green. I guess that’s civilians killing each other?

Kai on February 6, 2007 at 11:57 AM

It definatly smells like a political release to further attacks on Blair.

I send my prayers out to the UK troop killed and injured, plus their families. In a perfect world this would not happen. War is not perfect, these guys have to make split second decisions with what information they are given, or can see.

I thought that after the friendly fire incidents in the first Gulf War, that protocols were put in place to install IFF(identify friend/foe) comm devices on ground vehicles to keep just such a situation from happening. I don’t know the avionics on an A-10, but I can’t believe they wouldn’t have IFF. Why would a convoy in an active combat area not be equipped with this simple equipment at the least? As I am not currently in the know about specifics on combat operations regulations and equipment, I am just posing this question.
I have worked on military aircraft since 1980, IFF has been around quite a while. I am sure the military will have disciplined these pliots (IF found guilty) as required by Military Regs. Lest we forget, the military does not shy away from prosecuting misconduct (and I don’t think this was misconduct) when warranted. For those that don’t recall, the Abu Ghraib incident was already under investigation by the military long before the MSM started flogging the story.

still468 on February 6, 2007 at 12:14 PM

The pilots involved didn’t pull the combat camera record and hide it under their bunks. Their command structure has known about this since the moment it happened. There is absolutely no reason to believe that whatever holding to “account” is needed hasn’t already happened.

I feel sorry for these guys. It is readily apparent how hard they were trying – whether they screwed up in some way or not – and it is almost assured at this point their identities are going to become known.

Dwilkers on February 6, 2007 at 12:23 PM

“Our side” is always blue, the enemy is always “red”, allies are almost always blue (sometimes green if there’s a distinction that must be made.)

Blue on blue happens. Very bad for everyone involved, and their families, even if there are no fatalities. This story is old — four year old — news, spiced up with gun camera video.

This is just the media cheering for the other side.

htom on February 6, 2007 at 12:45 PM

Ah jeez, those poor bastards.

I can just imagine how I’d feel if I’d just lit up some friendlies. I hope it didn’t go too badly for them. They did check and get cleared for a go.

Sh*t sh*t sh*t…

Lonevoice on February 6, 2007 at 1:00 PM

As soon as I watched the video and heard reference to the orange panels I knew the pilots had screwed up. That should have been their first indication something wasn’t right and they needed to wait. It was a clear Rules of Engagement violation.

Additionally, I spent many years in the AF dealing with recognition of military equipment and training others for it. I find it hard to believe they could identify the specific make of some vehicles and couldn’t tell those vehicles they were shooting at were Brits. A-10 pilots go through extensive training to recognize vehicles and they should have caught that.

That being said, their punishment (if any) should come from within and not be given over to a foreign entity, friendly or not.

Centurion68 on February 6, 2007 at 1:04 PM

Errors all around, but no one blames Say-damn! If it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t even be there.

God help these airman and the the families of those killed and wounded.

Dread Pirate Roberts VI on February 6, 2007 at 1:11 PM

Tragic. All FF incidents are. Criminal….not hardly.
Removed from the cockpit……sure. Anyone who wants these boys prosecuted needs a blanket party thrown in their honor.

Limerick on February 6, 2007 at 1:11 PM

Speechless..

Viper1 on February 6, 2007 at 1:24 PM

“The pilots need to be brought to account.”

What does that mean?

honora on February 6, 2007 at 10:27 AM

The story suggests that the pilot(s) made a personal chose to skip and or short-cut safety protocols without proper authority, and it got friendlies killed.

The simple answer to this is a Court Martial.

Lawrence on February 6, 2007 at 1:26 PM

The simple answer to this is a Court Martial.

Lawrence on February 6, 2007 at 1:26 PM

Is there anyone here who after watching the video believes something like that was skipped? I mean these guys knew they were dead-to-rights immediately.

Esthier on February 6, 2007 at 1:37 PM

The question of criminality comes down to one thing: Did the pilots follow the standing Rules of Engagement (ROE)? If not, then it is likely a potential criminal act.

One of the general principals of ROE is that a military member typically must positively identify a target before engaging it. Based only on this video (which is not the complete story), it appears the one pilot did not. They were under the control of a FAC and at the very least should have obtained permission to roll in the the target.

A couple more words on ROE. It’s often quite detailed and spells out exactly what procedures should be followed this kind of situation. Since ROE is classified, we don’t know for certain whether any procedures were violated or not, so it’s impossible to determine with certainty if the pilot is to blame, the FAC, the Brits, the ROE procedures themselves, or a combination of some or all. Without the full picture, we just don’t know.

NPP on February 6, 2007 at 2:57 PM

“Our side” is always blue, the enemy is always “red”, allies are almost always blue (sometimes green if there’s a distinction that must be made.)

Blue on blue happens. Very bad for everyone involved, and their families, even if there are no fatalities. This story is old — four year old — news, spiced up with gun camera video.

This is just the media cheering for the other side.

htom on February 6, 2007 at 12:45 PM

Couldn’t agree more, htom.
I’m angry at The Sun for stirring up this hornet’s nest.
The war in Iraq at that time was barely a week old…and these pilots asked at least twice if there were friendlies in the area and were told “No” twice.
It’s not gonna do anybody any good at all for this video to be seen except possibly our enemies who get to see our operational procedures and what our cockpit cameras look like.
And it’s gonna inflame even more hatred for us in the UK, which has been going wobbly on us for a long time. Many in Britain are already urging Blair to pull their troops out of Iraq and this will just make it worse…
So much for the “special relationship.”
You could tell that our guys had made an honest mistake and were just sick about what happened.
Damn it.

Jen the Neocon on February 6, 2007 at 2:59 PM

–In this age of GPS, this is unacceptable.–NRA4Freedom

Nice going armchair ace. I’m sure you hit your paper target every time your at the rifle range. Too bad you don’t support the troops. They’re fighting there so you don’t have to here.

gmaninatl on February 6, 2007 at 3:58 PM

Three days before this incident, two British Challenger 2 tanks accidently engaged each other resulting in the deaths of two British soldiers, Corporal Stephen John Allbutt and Trooper David Jeffrey Clarke.

I can’t find any record of the crew of the other tank being “brought to account” and I can’t find any record of The Sun’s moral outrage over that friendly fire incident.

withoutfeathers on February 6, 2007 at 4:25 PM

Friendly-fire incidents will always happen in warfare. It is inevitable, even in the “age of GPS.”

What the story omits (of course) is that the rate of friendly fire in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts has been – by far – the lowest in military history. Ever. For any nation. Period.

In World War II, friendly fire deaths accounted for 14%; in Vietnam the numbers weren’t much lower; in Desert Storm, it was something like 23%, due to a couple large-scale incidents (and the low number of casualties over all). In the U.S. Civil War, there were battles in which an estimated one-half to two-thirds of the deaths came from either friendly-fire or infection spread by the surgeons trying to save lives.

In the post-9/11 conflicts, the friendly fire rate is less than ONE PERCENT. It is a testament to our technology and the skill of our soldiers.

That’s the story here. It’s an amazing one, too. Too bad nobody’s particularly interested.

Professor Blather on February 6, 2007 at 5:46 PM

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/03/11/national/main1391626.shtml

Even CBS news gets close to the truth.

Professor Blather on February 6, 2007 at 5:47 PM

The simple answer to this is a Court Martial.

Lawrence on February 6, 2007 at 1:26 PM

Is there anyone here who after watching the video believes something like that was skipped? I mean these guys knew they were dead-to-rights immediately.

Esthier on February 6, 2007 at 1:37 PM

I don’t know for sure. This video is only part of the whole story.

If a military officer of any type chooses to disregard targeting and firing procedures like this video suggests, and it gets friendlies or civilians killed, it generally means some serious punishment for disobeying an order. A full court martial and prison time is a possible punishment.

But again, in this case, I don’t know the rest of the story.

Lawrence on February 6, 2007 at 5:51 PM

Fog of war.

In the age of high-tech electronics, Clausewitz still rules the battlefield.

georgej on February 6, 2007 at 6:59 PM

Fog of war.

In the age of high-tech electronics, Clausewitz still rules the battlefield.

georgej on February 6, 2007 at 6:59 PM

Fog of War exactly. However there were no high tech electronics involved, (unless orange paint is high-tech).

Back in 2003 the Brits did not have Blue Tracker (not sure if they can interface with it now) and had to resort to orange placards placed on their convoys.

Here is what happened, as I understand the video.

1. They were sent to attack a group of targets in that area.

2. They found a group and were trying to get confirmation by having arty dropped on the target.

3. During that time a pilot sees a group of 4 moving into town (to take cover positions)

4. Notices they have orange on top, previously told no friendlys in the area?

5. I thinks they maybe be orange rockets. Asks again are their friendlys in the area. Answer = No

6. We are BINGO (For those that do not know “bingo fuel” does not mean you are out of fuel it means you have enough fuel to make it back to base, with a bit of a reserve). In short time to start heading home.

7. I don’t want to head home and allow the enemy to set up positions in town to attack the ground troops.

8. Rolling in

I am not saying the A-10 pilots did not make a mistake (hindsight being 20/20 we all know they attacked British troops and you had a pilot weeping on they way home) and I am certainly not trying to dismiss what occurred.

However the fog-of war being what it is the question to be answered is were they negligent in the mistake?

F15Mech on February 6, 2007 at 8:06 PM

One other thing…

You can only have orange placards on top of your ground vehicles if you own the sky. I assume because of the allied Air Forces in place it was determined that the Iraq AF would not be a problem and therefore the allies could place orange placards (I assume ahead of time) to help minimize the risk of a friendly fire attack.

If I were an Iraqi commander I would paint the top of my vehicle orange (or my rockets orange) if I knew “orange” would not be attacked.

F15Mech on February 6, 2007 at 8:24 PM

Fog of War. Exactly.

Ask the 1,077 Australian and American Bluejackets who ended up sleeping on the bottom of Iron Bottom Sound the night of Aug 9, 1942.
A wild free for all with friendly fire accounting for a large portion of those deaths. Even the Japanese found themselves firing on their own ships that night. The commander of the USS Bagley didn’t even get a no-no for slamming a torpedo into the HMAS Canberra.

Like I said earlier in this thread…..kick em out of the cockpit, but prosecution=witch hunt.

Limerick on February 6, 2007 at 8:32 PM

Speaking from experience, it’s very hard to see anything on the ground from a fighter. Believe it or not, the camouflage on armored vehicles works pretty good at hiding them and fuzzing their profiles. That orange panel that looks big to you on the ground is just a fuzzy little pixel from altitude. It’s easy to get it wrong, which is why these guys were working so hard to get it right.

It can be a chore to sort out armored vehicles even when they are laid out on a bombing range and marked on a map. It’s even harder when you are on a dynamic battlefield with tens of thousands of moving pieces with imperfect knowledge of where everyone is. It’s a miracle that more friendly fire does not happen. A miracle.

Tantor on February 7, 2007 at 12:20 AM

The Sun would probably accept a public beheading — like good little dhimmis…

lan astaslem on February 6, 2007 at 11:20 AM

Gotta love Uncle Rupes Murdoch, eh?

How many faces does that man have, precisely?

MKR on February 7, 2007 at 4:41 AM

Two minutes too late… such is life; and data reigns.

“Hi Blokes, I’m down here… I’m down here!!!!”

8 simple words

ar_basin on February 7, 2007 at 10:55 AM