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Pentagon To Retire USS Truman Early, Shrinking Carrier Fleet To 10

Flash

SEVAL/ECMO
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Super Moderator
Contributor
Did that occur during Vietnam?
No, the last time US ground forces military personnel were lost to enemy air attack was in April 1953 when North Korean aircraft attacked an allied-occupied island off the coast of North Korea.

I posted it before but here is an article detailing the attacks:

It would seem that US service members were killed by enemy aircraft during the Vietnam war.
Yes. We lost aircraft and servicemen to North Vietnamese and Chinese aircraft.
The ra-ra slide gets it wrong by leaving off the ground forces part, as @Treetop Flyer first noticed, and we lost aircrew to enemy aircraft in Vietnam and in the Gulf War (1 KIA).

All said there were a total a 269 American and enemy aircraft shot down in air-to-air combat over Vietnam during the entire war—201 in fights between the U.S. Air Force and North Vietnamese air force and 68 in the U.S. Navy’s air battles with the North Vietnamese. In those fights, the U.S. Air Force lost 64 aircraft and the Navy lost 12.
There were actually a handful of notable air attacks by North Vietnam against US forces in Vietnam but in a combination of ineffectual attacks and luck we didn't have anyone killed as a result. Two that come to mind include North Vietnamese Mig-17's that attacked a group of destroyers and a cruiser doing a gunfire support mission in April 1972, the USS Higbee had its aft 5-inch gun turret destroyed but the crew had evacuated the turret earlier due to a misfire and no one was killed. The whole action was a bit of a confused mess with conflicting claims whether or not any of the attacking MiG-17's were lost to US Navy SAM's.

The other was 4 North Vietnamese An-2's that attacked 'Lima Site 85 in 1968, a forward TACAN and radar bombing control station set up on a mountain in Laos. They hit the base but no Americans were killed, some of our local allies at the base were, and an An-2 returning to base was shot down by an Air America UH-1 crewman armed with an AK-47. Unfortunately the base later fell to a North Vietnamese ground attack that cost 13 American lives.

A painting depicting the shootdown:

21943
 
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Brett327

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If a weapon is launched from an aircraft I would consider it an air attack, and the Stark was hit by missiles launched from an Iraqi aircraft so I think most would consider it an 'air attack'.
Good point. I remembered them being surface launched for some reason. Probably thinking of Silkworm.
 

Sculpin

Well-Known Member
I'm a little surprised that I forgot that we have in fact lost service members to an air attack since 1953, though technically not 'ground' forces. Thirty seven sailors were killed when the USS Stark was struck by two Exocet missiles fired by an Iraq aircraft on May 17,1987.
Thanks for bringing that up, I was thinking about that. But the wording used in that Air Force briefing slide was specifically "enemy aircraft". At that time, Iraq was not technically an enemy.

For context, the incident took place during the "Tanker War", where the Iraqis and Iranians were striking each other's shipping. An Iraqi Mirage F1 pilot, with the extreme incompetence to be expected of a third world country that didn't have an air force even worth mentioning until several years prior and with very regular dismissals and purges, mistook a USN frigate for an Iranian shipping tanker. The massively deadly screw-up by the pilot led to his execution in Iraq if I recall correctly, so there was that at least.
 

BarryD

Well-Known Member
Thanks for bringing that up, I was thinking about that. But the wording used in that Air Force briefing slide was specifically "enemy aircraft". At that time, Iraq was not technically an enemy.
Hell, we practically shared a common enemy. Kinda sorta.
 

Flash

SEVAL/ECMO
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Super Moderator
Contributor
For context, the incident took place during the "Tanker War", where the Iraqis and Iranians were striking each other's shipping. An Iraqi Mirage F1 pilot, with the extreme incompetence to be expected of a third world country that didn't have an air force even worth mentioning until several years prior and with very regular dismissals and purges, mistook a USN frigate for an Iranian shipping tanker. The massively deadly screw-up by the pilot led to his execution in Iraq if I recall correctly, so there was that at least.
And how do you suppose he was to distinguish an oil tanker from a warship beyond his visual range? If you know anything about historical wartime ASCM engagements, from the Falklands to Lebanon, the missiles often end up either being shot at the wrong target or hitting the wrong one because it is often very difficult to distinguish them, basically one blip from another on radar, for both the pilot and the missile. Any beyond visual range targeting is a challenge, as we have demonstrated several times shooting down either our own aircraft or civilian ones.

So yeah, dial back on the hubris a bit as we have had our fair share of fuck-ups too.
 

Sculpin

Well-Known Member
And how do you suppose he was to distinguish an oil tanker from a warship beyond his visual range? If you know anything about historical wartime ASCM engagements, from the Falklands to Lebanon, the missiles often end up either being shot at the wrong target or hitting the wrong one because it is often very difficult to distinguish them, basically one blip from another on radar, for both the pilot and the missile. Any beyond visual range targeting is a challenge, as we have demonstrated several times shooting down either our own aircraft or civilian ones.

So yeah, dial back on the hubris a bit as we have had our fair share of fuck-ups too.
Certainly, but that assumes that's how things went (among other things, the Iraqi pilot ignored radio warnings from the Stark) and otherwise does not invalidate that the Iraqi air force (and military at large) was dreadfully incompetent, which is the point I was making with the quoted bold text. You may be giving the Iraqis a bit too much credit. And no hubris here, unless hubris is not rationalizing the actions of someone who killed and wounded over 50 American Sailors which then, to add insult to injury, the Iraqis stated was somehow our fault. If you read up on the war at large, you'd find it to be excessively frustrating because that's not even the worst of it. They'd so regularly drop gas on their own guys, they tried to use it as 'proof' that the Iranians were hitting them with chemical agents.

But, we can only judge the Iraqis and Iraqi aviation by our standards if there was any degree of parity between how the US and Iraqi militaries operated, any parity between US and Iraqi aviation training, organization, and capabilities, if this was an isolated one-off accident/incident and not the regularly scheduled Iraqi screw-ups (just this time hitting someone else other than their own guys), and if the scenario and events that took place were so tricky. The pilot, among other things, ignored radio warnings from the USS Stark, and the Iraqi government went so far as to claim that the ship was in violation of the exclusion zone (which was false, so no excuse there) and had been a valid, non-neutral target and additionally somehow tried to shift the blame on Iran as well. Yes, they actually said it was our fault for the ship being struck. How the Iraqis operated would be to take blind shots at any shipping remotely due east/southeast of Basra they weren't aware of belonging to them, making no effort towards identification. Their assumption was everything was a valid target. How about that? There's other details that this was a little more than a spontaneous oopsie, but the point is it wasn't so clear cut a situation as the challenges of BVR or the limitations of ASCMs. Why did they jump through hoops blaming the US and Iran for their supposedly innocent accident, anyways?

I will close by stating the sheer incompetence of the Iraqi military in that and other conflicts they've been in is very well-documented. You may say we have our screw-ups here and there, but they were very regularly hitting their own guys with artillery, airstrikes, chemical weapons, machine gun fire, etc. in the 80s alone. What is the odd screw-up for us was and is the norm for them. Let's not give them too much credit.
 
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HAL Pilot

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^ I was actually flying in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War, Operation Earnest Will, Operation Praying Mantis, when the USS Roberts hit the mine, and was working directly with the USS Vincennes when she shot down the Iranian Airbus. Missed the USS Stark incident but I witnessed many Iran-Iraq dogfights over the Gulf and had dinner in Saudi Arabia with whoever lost after coordinating SAR. Got chased by a few Iranian fighters and shot at from Farsi Island. Supported the SEALS and Army Spec Ops helps off the barges (Hercules and I forget the 2nd barge name). So I have first hand experience.

I have no doubt the Iraqi thought he was shooting at something else other than a US warship. One of our primary missions was IDing anything that floated. Even with ISAR radar (which we had to use very sparingly since it was new and many mistook it for a fire control radar), AWACS maintaining a comprehensive Link 11 picture from every US and allied combatant and aircraft, and knowing where everyone combatant and merchant was supposed to be; at least 25% of the time contacts had to be visually IDed before knowing who they were. And we had big advance over both the Iranians and Iraqis in technology and capabilities.

As far as blaming the US, of course they did. That’s called CYA and propaganda.

If it wasn’t for being classified (I assume still), I could tell you a bunch of US fuckups that resulted in the USS Roberts mine strike; and during the USS Vincennes incident, Operation Praying Mantis and during just day to day operations during the Ernest Will escort operations.

Your synopsis is from a REMF perspective and far from the actual day to day life going on at that time in that place. Yes it was an Iraqi fuckup, but I saw plenty of competency from both the Iraqis and Iranians.

As far as radio calls from the USS Stark, I had dinner with more than a few shot down Iraqi pilots who did not speak any English. While I know English is both the international language for aviation and the maritime, Iraqi military pilots do not necessarily speak it. I met French and German military pilots in my time that did not speak English.

(Posted from my phone using my fat fingers... ignore misspellings, etc. please).
 

Flash

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Certainly, but that assumes that's how things went (among other things, the Iraqi pilot ignored radio warnings from the Stark) and otherwise does not invalidate that the Iraqi air force (and military at large) was dreadfully incompetent, which is the point I was making with the quoted bold text. You may be giving the Iraqis a bit too much credit....There's other details that this was a little more than a spontaneous oopsie, but the point is it wasn't so clear cut a situation as the challenges of BVR or the limitations of ASCMs.
Credit for what? A pretty simple targeting screw up? The kind we have made, over and over again? Ever heard of Occam's Razor? It almost certainly applies in this case. The Iraqi pilot was sent out to strike shipping in the Gulf and that is what he did, simple as that. He didn't have a magic box telling him what the target was and he wasn't about to stick around to see what happened when his job was done for the day.

To be frank your 'analysis' smacks of armchair amateurism, the kind of 'analysis' that folks on Reddit or non-professional aviation forums where folks with no first-hand experience assume that A, B and C happens when little to none of the shit they fixate on matters in the real world. Most of the details you claim indicate that this was more than a 'spontaneous oopsie' can easily be explained as either defensive reactions to a genuine screw up or connecting random dots.

One claim that belies your ignorance is the claim that the pilot ignored radio warnings from the Stark, not only is HAL correct in saying that many Iraqi pilots didn't speak English but did you ever think that he may not have been listening to the freq they were transmitting on? Or ignored it because he was sick of listening to shit like the Filipino Monkey?

Take the hint, you are out of your lane.
 

RobLyman

- hawk Pilot
pilot
None
...

If it wasn’t for being classified (I assume still), I could tell you a bunch of US fuckups that resulted in the USS Roberts mine strike; and during the USS Vincennes incident, Operation Praying Mantis and during just day to day operations during the Ernest Will escort operations.
...
We (HSL-44) had a DET onboard SBR when it hit the mine.
"Fire shot straight up from the stack!" is what the guys in the helo on the flight deck said.
 
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