Warplanes: November 14, 2002

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During an incident in Afghanistan last March, a Special Forces soldier was killed. At first it was reported to be from enemy mortar fire. But a subsequent investigation revealed that it was friendly fire from an AC-130 gunship. The AC-130 was in the area to provide fire support, but it's navigation system has broken. Rather that return to base, and leave local troops without the fire support an AC-130 provides, the crew relied on navigating the old fashioned way. Picking out reference points on the ground and comparing them to a map, they got lost. When the Special Forces truck convoy came into view, it was mistakenly identified as hostile and fired on. The error was soon realized, but not before the one Special Forces soldier was killed. More details of the investigation were not revealed, lest important performance data about the AC-130 (that could be useful to hostile forces) be revealed. It's also not known if the AC-130 crew will be punished. The crew did show initiative by falling back on visual navigation. Risks like this are commonly taken in wartime and they don't always work out.

 


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