Saturday, December 09, 2006

Was Lincs soldier killed by American "friendly fire"...?

The death of a brave Lincolnshire soldier killed this week may have been the result of "friendly fire" from an American A10 "tankbuster" aircraft.

A British soldier is reported in today's Guardian and on news broadcasts saying:
I saw it. It was the A-10. I was 5ft away. We called in a strike on the next trench. Then I saw it swooping toward us. I will never forget that noise. It was horrible.
An investigation has been launched into the death of a Royal Marine Jonathan Wigley, 21 who grew up in Grantham.

Sadly, there is a history of US pilots accused of firing on British troops - it happened at least three times in the Iraq invasion of 2003 when British survivors branded low-flying US pilots"cowboys" for failing to spot clear British flags and red smoke popped to indicate friendly forces.

At least five British soldiers were killed by Americans in the 2003 Iraq invasion.

In the First Gulf War in 1991, there were 35 "blue on blue" attacks when almost a quarter of all American military deaths were as a result of "friendly fire".

The most infamous and controversial incident claimed the lives of nine British soldiers when an American A10 bombed a Warrior armoured personnel carrier which was one of some 30 which had been parked up.

Defence sources told the Guardian there was a "real possibility" that Marine Wigley was killed by friendly fire. One said: "It looks like it."

Marine Wigley, from Zulu Company 45 Commando, had been taking part in an operation to drive Taliban fighters out of Garmsir, in Helmand province. The marines were only able to pull out after 10 hours of fighting and with the help of Afghan forces.

The investigation is expected to take several months.

Getting killed by enemy fire is bad enough and in every conflict, the fog of war leads to "blue on blue" tragedies.

But surely, technology now exists to prevent aircraft bombing their own side.


Anonymous said...

I do not know how the problem can be totally resolved. It is much easier now for tanks etc to be tagged so that they are not incorrectly targetted. Indeed, much investment and progress has been made by the use of satellite technology for vehicles and aircraft. Impossible though for infantry units on the ground. I read somewhere recently that a soldier changed batteries on his receiver and forgot that the machine reverted back. As a result his platoon was struck by a missile. I also read that an investigation by the military in the US said that the problem was caused by simple things such as failure to communicate information, common radio frequencies and a lack of coordination of activities. The report concluded by saying that whilst technolgy was available it was human error that caused the problems.

I can remember too the killing of Canadian soldiers by US soldiers which caused real anger. The soldiers involved had retired and were more forthcoming about events. One had poor eyesight and another just followed those who were shooting. No judgement involved at all - gung ho mentality. It is alright having all the equipment that money can buy but this does not detract from the need for soldiers to have common sense and some intellect. Sadly, many other nations personnel do not possess these attributes.

fairdealphil said...


thanks for your thoughtful comments.

i'm afraid you are right about lack of common sense and intellect.