Tragedy Plus Ten

Blackfive pays tribute to the soldiers of Eagle Flight, many of whom were his friends, who were killed ten years ago today over the northern no-fly zone in Iraq. It’s a tragedy that I still can’t comprehend: Two U.S. Air Force F-15s, with the benefit of AWACS, mistook two green Blackhawk helicopters for sand-colored HINDS and shot them down. Army privates don’t graduate basic training without being able to distinguish a Blackhawk from a HIND on a silhouette flash card. There was a trial, but no one was convicted.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jem says:

    Well, it did at least end the career of the young Captain who was running the issue on the AWACS (and could only tell from his sensors that they were helicopters squawking IFF codes other than those in use by Coalition aircraft inside Iraq). And the Army pilots who failed to use the proper IFF codes to identify themselves as friendly were beyond administrative or judicial punishment. That just leaves the F-15 pilots, who came out okay because recognition training, which had been severely negelected from the standpoint of funding, was clearly inadequate.

    Oh, and by the way: while a HIND and a Blackhawk should be fairly easy to tell apart, an armed HIP (which the Iraqis also had) is much more similar to a Blackhawk in appearance–especially from a distance and at a closure speed of 400 mph.

    In short, several things went wrong, and there’s plenty of blame to go around on that one….