Human error blamed in US helicopter disaster

First Edition

A CATASTROPHIC SERIES of blunders, all 'human error', led to US jets shooting down two of their own helicopters on a UN mission over Northern Iraq on 14 April, killing 26 people including two British officers, according to the investigation report released by US Defence Secretary William Perry yesterday.

The report now goes to military commanders to determine what disciplinary action, if any, should be taken. Until then, the pilots and air traffic controllers involved will not be named. But they could face court martial.

The pilots of the F15C fighters mistook the US UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for Soviet-built Iraqi helicopters violating the no-fly zone north of the 36th parallel.

The investigation found that the two American pilots who fired missiles at the Black Hawks were not briefed in advance about their presence in the area of northern Iraq.

Air traffic controllers aboard US Airborne Warning and Control Aircraft (AWACS) directing the fighters and helicopters, the report continued, were confused and failed to communicate with each other.

The errors were compounded because the electronic IFF ("Identification Friend or Foe") system used by the helicopters had been set on the wrong frequency.

"I can't tell you what will happen," said one defence official. "It could range from no action to official admonishment to court martial."

Immediately after the tragedy, the Defence Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, said the incident was 'quite incomprehensible given the normal procedures that applied, given the fact that it was not in the fog of war, indeed it was broad daylight. A lot of very painful questions need to be asked and more importantly they need to be answered'.

Mr Perry and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen John Shalikashvili, released the report at a Pentagon news conference yesterday.

In the crash 15 Americans, five Kurds, three Turkish, two British and one French officers died. The investigation was headed by US Major-General James G Andrus, commander of the US Third Air Force, based in Mildenhall, Suffolk.

The Dead Britons were Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Swann correct, 51, of the Royal Artillery, who was married with two children and Major correct - acting Maj Harry Shapland, 28, of the Irish Guards, a single man. Lt Col Swann's wife, Helen, was abroad yesterday, and Maj Shapland's family did not wish to make any comment.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect