Wednesday, February 07, 2007

That Friendly Fire incident

By now I suspect that you will have seen the cockpit video of the friendly fire incident which caused the death of Lance Corporal of Horse Matty Hull.

Four things strike me.

Firstly the two pilots concerned were US National Guard. Effectively our equivalent of the Territorial army. May be good, but don't train every day.

Secondly they seemed not to know about the orange marking system at all. Probably because of lack of training, so had no means of telling friend from foe. An "accident waiting to happen".

Thirdly their air controller had no clue that our boys were there. There is a huge danger when two armies on the same side are fighting in the same space if there is not the fullest cooperation up and down all chains of command. That is very tricky. NATO forces are supposed to work that way, but these national guards men seemed not to be in the loop.

It looks to me to be half baked training for NATO type operations and a half baked attitude to communication. Just what you would expect of Donald Rumsfeld. I don't think the pilots were to blame, but then I have not seen their training records.

Fourthly and most bizarrely, having had the world, his wife an their pet dog watch the video on TV or the web, the Americans will allow the inquest to see the video but only if it is a closed court. How strange. Giving grieving relatives the run around does not impress me much either.

The BBC has this, whilst the Sun's video is available here.


Chris D said...

Benedict, the media coverage of this today has been appalling, and I single sky news out as the worst.
The two pilots have been vilified for a mistake in the heat of the invasion and in many ways the real culprits, the pentagon and MOD got off lightly.
This video should have been made available years ago and how long has the MOD known about it and had a copy?
When was their internal inquiry?
Ret Lt Col Tim Collins was excellent today and with the retired navigator who was shot down in the first gulf war tried valiantly to put forward a much more balanced view of the video and the actions of the pilots.
One glaring point that Tim Collins made has been totally ignored in all this, and it is the single biggest reason why we keep seeing these tragedies of blue on blue between the UK and Americans in a war zone.
COMMUNICATION! He pointed out that the MOD did not supply the UK armed forces with the correct radio equipment which would have allowed them to communicate directly and identify themselves to the American pilots .
If I understand it correctly the UK ground forces had one possible two layers of HUMAN communication to get through before contact with the pilots, which in a warzone is unacceptable and after the experience of first gulf war downright criminal on the part of the MOD.
I believe a British soldier risked his life trying to signal to the pilots, how could we in this day and age not have the updated radio equipment to talk to our allies? But then we can't even provide decent levels of basic equipment, resources and air support. Who has been providing that support for the soldiers in Helmand province all these months? I did not hear a lot of comment on the sheer scale of air support provided by the Americans all these months.

Benedict White said...

ChrisD, I agree. They appear to have not wanted to think about what was in the video.

Still, it s good to see some of our military making sure the record is set straight.

Yes the way the MOD works putting our troops in needless danger is criminal.

Ellee said...

I remember reading that the American forces were recruiting people of low intelligence to go to Iraq, when really it is a profession and requires a certain mental ability too, that's probably the most important part of the job.

I could see how America was snookered and that the video would have to be released, but very tragic for the widow.

Benedict White said...

Ellee, My understanding is that the IQ of your average American soldier is below average for the population whereas it is higher here.

That said this does not as far as I am aware apply to pilots.

The pilots seemed to act within their training and information at the time, so they were not at fault. The training and information was.

Yes obviously this is very tragic for the widow, made worse by the time it took to get the video out.

Ted said...

Matty Hull's name is on the war memorial 100 foot up the road from where I am posting this so I've been wary of posting on the subject. I've been outraged by the populist anti-americanism that the story of his death has bought out. I welcome Chris D's posting which points to the real errors that led to his death - those of communication and the failure of both UK & US defence departments to learn from Gulf War I.

Ellee, usually a fan, but I found your posting insulting and unnecessary. On fact basis the "IQ" measured is one which doesn't measure only intelligence but education. It's a measure of the failure of the US education system in educating the poorer members of its society rather than a measure of their ability to learn & comrehend.

Benedict White said...

Ted, to a greater or lesser extent I agree. I thought I had made the point in my main article that the pilots were not to blame.

I don't care much for populist anti anything, but both our an the US's government have failed this time around for a number of different reasosn. Communucation and raining being the most pertinent.