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.
- 1 Tidal launch: The most pretentious lines from Alicia Keys' valedictory speech
- 2 Trevor Noah: Jon Stewart's replacement faces online criticism over 'anti-Semitic' tweets
- 3 Martha Stewart accuses Snoop Dogg of 'smoking for four hours' during Justin Bieber Roast
- 4 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
- 5 Syrian child photographed 'surrendering to camera because she thought it was a gun'
Costa Concordia: Shipment of Mob drugs was hidden aboard cruise liner when it hit rocks off Italian coast, investigators say
Martha Stewart accuses Snoop Dogg of 'smoking for four hours' during Justin Bieber Roast
University of Cambridge: Remains of 1,300 scholars are found under building
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Turkey power cut: Prime Minister says nationwide blackout could be caused by terrorists
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
£22500 - £30000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking for experie...
£16575 - £18785 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Dundee based butchers requ...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To effectively manage a team which is responsi...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A rare and exciting role has arisen within thi...