USS Vincennes, an Aegis class cruiser is off shore Bandar Abbas in the Persian Gulf on patrol. Has high tech radar with a range of 300 km. Capt Will Rogers sends a helicopter to ascertain activity of nearby Iranian speedboats. Nothing suspicious is reported. Helicopter is allegedly fired upon (Gulf of Tonkin scenario) by the Iranians, so he claims the right to use force in self-defence (response is required) and seeks permission from US Naval Headquarters in Bahrain. That is granted. Vincennes and Montgomery are engaged in a sea ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“battleÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ with Iranian speed boats. Iranian Air Force P3 Orion is detected in the area, and told to steer clear of the Vincennes. P3 acknowledges. Vincennes forward gun jams during firing and it swings around for the rear armament to face incoming fire from Iranian speedboats.
Iran Air 655, an Airbus A300 on a scheduled 25 minute flight from Bandar Abbas to Dubai, is delayed at departure by 27 minutes. Capt. Mohsin Rezaian is in command. Iranian airline flight is squawking civilian transponder Mode 3 on its secondary radar. USS Vincennes calls Iran Air 655 on military radio telephonic frequency for identification as it is not picked up on the Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) secondary radar by it. They are using military modes only (US Navy). The USS Vincennes also claims no radio contact (its radios are tuned to military frequencies). Iran Air 655 is identified by it as an Iranian Air Force F-14 Tomcat and this is relayed to Captain Rogers that a hostile is approaching the ship and they are under an imminent attack. Incoming hostile is 45 km away and engagement is sought by the Identification Supervisor Anderson to engage at 20 km. Capt. Rogers concurs.
Capt. Rezaian transmits to Bandar Abbas Air Traffic Control his estimate for leaving the Iranian Flight Information Region (FIR Boundary), and estimated arrival time at Dubai. They are 0658 and 0715 respectively, in UTC.
Information is passed to Capt. Rogers that the hostileÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s altitude is ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“decliningÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ and it is descending at a rate of 1000 feet per mile to attack--a decisive factor entailing an immediate decision.
Iran Air 655 signs off with Bandar Abbas Air Traffic Control and its distance from USS Vincennes is 11 miles. Missiles fired by the US cruiser at Iranian Airbus result in its downing in the sea. Iran Air is flying in an international air corridor with 290 souls on board, and is shot off the sky by cowboys with trigger happy fingers on colts.
USS Vincennes on arrival at San Diego, California is cheered for 'gallantry' in action. An inquiry under Rear Admiral Fogarty exonerates the captain and crew, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œacted proper in face of threat to ship.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â He is awarded the Legion of Merit. Anderson is given the Navy Commendation Medal.
The US Navy cites errors by Anderson due to:
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢ Time evaluation, Bahrain or Iranian time as the unit of determination of scheduled departure of Iran Air 655 ex-Bandar Abbas?
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢ Also the target (Iran Air 655) was detected in the middle of the battle with speedboats.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢ It is also claimed that an Iran Air Force F-14 Tomcat was locked on mistakenly at Bandar Abbas by the Vincennes radar and continually identified further as Iran Air 655.
Normal standard practice the world over is to use UTC (formerly called GMT) to avoid any confusion-italics mine
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢ They always talk to us and why Iran Air 655 never responded. They never responded because an answer was never sought on the civilian radio frequency. International VHF distress frequency was used but the aircraft did not respond as the transmission was not specific to them-italics mine
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢ Iran Air was squawking it secondary radar code (transponder) throughout.
In a 1990 edited report, according to McKenna, he had assigned the VincennesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s helicopter only, and had asked the Vincennes out from the area to another station. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThey went looking for trouble and ended up 4 miles inside Iranian territorial waters and placed the ship in line of flight path of Iran Air 655.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Those were the Vincennes coordinates at the time of shooting down of Iran Air 655. A proper assessment of the air picture was not made. An investigative journalist is curious why no map is shown in the Fogarty Report, which concealed the above fact.
In fact Iran Air 655 was all the time ascending (climbing). This was explained away as a scenario fulfillment for the Vincennes crewÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âit was thus imagined so everything else was conjectured around to fit that a hostile was attacking. One naval officer in his testimony stated that the discovered data stating the aircraft was climbing did not mean anything to him as he relied on the peopleÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s assessment of the situation. Capt Rogers trusted Lt. Commander LustigÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s verbal assessment.
Here you can see how fear has created a situation where none existed.
Courtesy: National Geographic
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