Human error blamed for US friendly fire tragedy
Sunday 04 October 1992
The ships were involved in Nato's Display Determination '92 war games, along with the Royal Navy frigate HMS Andromeda, but no missile firing had been planned until next week.
US officials have apologised, three admirals have been appointed to investigate and the Turkish government has accepted it was an accident. But a retired Turkish naval officer, Nihat Topuz, voiced the suspicions of many compatriots when he suggested the Muavenet may have been targeted by an anti-Turkish US crew member. 'The ethnic background of those in the fire control room of the US carrier should be carefully checked,' Mr Topuz said. 'They might be Armenians or Greeks.'
Turkey is in dispute with Greece over Aegean territorial waters and Cyprus, while Armenian nationalists have previously launched attacks on Turks.
British defence experts, however, believe a human error during a shift change led to the launching of the two 12ft Sea Sparrows, relatively unsophisticated weapons that cannot be stopped once fired. They are meant to shoot down attacking planes. Once launched, it was 'sheer bad luck' one of the missiles hit the Muavenet, steaming three miles away, the experts say.
'The Saratoga had previously been on war stations in the Adriatic, at tip-top readiness for any air or sea attack from the Serbs. So all the missiles on board would have been live,' said Paul Beaver of Jane's Defence Weekly. 'Just after midnight, they would just have changed the watch. That means a routine 'user systems check' of weapons systems.
'The check is to ensure the surveillance radar is talking to the fire control computer, and along the chain to the launcher and seeker-head. But you should have the manual disabling systems in place, to prevent launching. It's a matter of pressing a button.'
Most British defence experts gave the Americans the benefit of the doubt. 'Because of the size of the US Navy, such accidents are statisticaly more likely,' said Richard Sharp, Editor of Jane's Fighting Ships. But one expert, who preferred not to be named, was less generous. 'The Royal Navy is very wary of exercising with the Americans. They have a knack of doing this,' he said.
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Asteroid narrowly scrapes past Earth: how to watch the closest space rock for decades as it flies by
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Prince Philip set to be knighted by Australia: Celebrate by reading his greatest gaffes
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
30,000 reasons why the rhetoric on immigrants claiming benefits can stop now
£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...
£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...
£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...