'Friendly fire' protection failed in shot-down Tornado

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The Independent Online

An RAF Tornado brought down by a US missile during the Iraq war had suffered a failure of the electronic system which identified it as a "friendly" aircraft, an RAF Board of Inquiry has found.

An RAF Tornado brought down by a US missile during the Iraq war had suffered a failure of the electronic system which identified it as a "friendly" aircraft, an RAF Board of Inquiry has found.

Defence Minister Ivor Caplin, publishing a summary of the Board's findings, said the "immediate cause" of the accident was the US Patriot missile battery which "misidentified" the Tornado as an enemy anti-radiation missile.

But in a written ministerial statement, Mr Caplin said there were several contributory factors to the accident.

These included the failure of the Tornado GR4A's "identification friend or foe" (IFF) system.

Other factors included the "wide classification criteria" for anti-radiation missiles programmed into the Patriot system and the Patriot rules of engagement which were "not sufficiently robust to prevent a friendly aircraft without a functioning IFF system being classified as an anti-radiation missile".

Mr Caplin said: "Like most aircraft accidents, no single cause was to blame."

He added: "The Board of Inquiry has established the causes of this tragic accident and has highlighted the various factors that contributed to it. The board's recommendations are now being implemented."

The Tornado was brought down on March 23 last year close to the Kuwait-Iraq border as it returned from a mission over Iraq.

The pilot, Flight Lieutenant Kevin Main, and navigator Flight Lieutenant Dave Williams, were both killed in the incident.

The report into the incident said neither crew member attempted to eject from the aircraft and both were killed instantly.

Among the report's recommendations were that the IFF system on each aircraft should be checked after take-off, with a positive challenge and response verified, and that the Tornado's IFF installation should be modified to make sure a cockpit alarm sounds whenever the IFF system has a failure.

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