The first reported
ground fratricide incident during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)
occurred shortly after midnight on March 24, when a British
Challenger II tank fired on another near Basra. This incident is
of particular interest. The two tanks, Britain's most advanced MBT
types, were part of a squadron of the Queen's Royal Lancers
attached to the 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusliers
Battlegroup of the 7th Armoured Brigade. The tanks were engaging
pockets of Iraqi soldiers near a bridge over the Qanat Shat Al
Basra canal which runs along the western edge of the city. In a
nearby sector, a troop of CR2 of 2RTR was tracking a group of
enemy personnel through their thermal sights, which had been
reported by the battle group HQ. The 'target' was indicated as an
enemy bunker position. The QDL Challenger was, unfortunately, in
turret-down position, below the skyline, its crew working on the
turret top, visible to the 2 RTR crew as the reported "enemy"
The RTR TC
requested clearance to shoot, which was granted. Firing two shots
of HESH at 4000 yards blew the turret off the QDL Challenger,
killing two of the crew and seriously wounding the two others.
Both tanks were fitted with visual identification systems in
working order, but could not render clear visual contact, due to
the hull-down positioned tank.
reports, tanks in OIF were issued bolted-on identification panels,
including those emitting thermal signature which can be seen at
long distance using IR observation devices. However there seemed
to remain also some of the older fluorescent sheets, used during
Desert Storm on some of the AFVs.
On March 27
another ground B+B incident caused 37 casualties among the US
marines of 2nd Battalion 8th Marines. Although the Marines had
some of the most sophisticated equipment to prevent such a tragic
accident, including thermal imaging, night vision gear and
computers, to keep track of each other's movements, even this
hi-tech equipment failed to prevent such a tragic event. The 2nd
Battalion command post called for artillery support near An
Nasiriyah Bridge, but the shots fell short, exploding among the
Marines with devastating results. Just then a communication break
happened, while radio operators were frantically trying to call
off the fire in vain. In the midst of the chaos, shells kept
exploding for 90(!) minutes, until finally contact was
re-established, but the damage was already done.
destroyed at least one US Army M1A2 Abrams MBT in OIF. According
to a briefing by Lt Colonel Bob Lovett, prepared for the US Armor
Center Ft Knox Kentucky, a tank of B Troop 3rd Squadron 7th
Cavalry Regiment was knocked out at night 24/25 March near Najaf.
First investigation in the field suspected the 'kill' as result of
enemy action firing
the new Russian
Kornet ATGW, but further examination revealed that the damage was
from a 25mm Bushmaster cannon, firing eight AP-DU rounds into the
rear engine compartment penetrating the engine grills. The same
report mentioned another M1A2 Abrams damaged by unidentified
source, possibly another US tank firing a 120mm round.
incident reminds of a similar one during the final stages of
Desert Storm. On February 27, 1991, 3rd Brigade 2nd US Armored
Division was engaged in a night battle in southern Iraq against
the Republican Guard, when two rocket propelled grenades hit a
M1A1 Abrams, inflicting no damage. The crew of another tank
mistook the impacting flashes in their thermal sights, for enemy
gun fire and immediately targeted the source. The 120mm DU round
penetrated the tank with catastrophic fire results, killing the
crew. This incident, among others, triggered instant Pentagon
action to solve the problem and the result was the development of
the (alas unfortunate) Battlefield Combat Identification System, (BCIS).