32 years ago today Iran Air Flight 655 was Shot Down by a US warship killing 290 innocents

31 years ago today Iran Air Flight 655 was Shot Down by a US warship killing 290 innocents

On July 3, 1988, Iran Air flight 655, carrying 290 passengers, was shot down by a surface-to-air missile launched from the USS Vincennes of the United States Navy.

The Airbus 300 was on its scheduled flight from Tehran to Dubai, flying over Iran’s territorial waters when the US Navy missile destroyed it killing all 290 people on board, including 66 children, was killed.

On the morning of 3 July 1988, USS Vincennes was passing through the Strait of Hormuz returning from an escort duty.

A helicopter deployed from the cruiser reportedly received small arms fire from Iranian patrol vessels as it observed from high altitude.

Vincennes moved to engage the Iranian vessels, in the course of which they all violated Omani waters and left after being challenged and ordered to leave by a Royal Navy of Oman warship.

Vincennes then pursued the Iranian gunboats, entering Iranian territorial waters to open fire. USS Sides and USS Elmer Montgomery were nearby.

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The cruiser’s Aegis Combat System recorded that the airliner was climbing at the time and its radio transmitter was squawking on only the Mode III civilian frequency, and not on the military Mode II.

After receiving no response to multiple radio challenges, and believing the airliner was an Iranian F-14 Tomcat (capable of carrying unguided bombs since 1985) diving into an attack profile, Vincennes fired two SM-2MR surface-to-air missiles, one of which hit the airliner.

The plane disintegrated immediately and crashed into the water soon after.

The cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder were never found.

Here is a Documentary on Iran Air Flight 655 Shootdown

According to the United States government, the crew of USS Vincennes had incorrectly identified the Airbus as an attacking F-14 Tomcat, a U.S.-made jet fighter that had been part of the Iranian Air Force inventory since the 1970s. While the F-14s had been supplied to Iran in an air-to-air configuration, the crew of the guided missile cruiser had been briefed that the Iranian F-14s were equipped with air-to-ground ordnance. Vincennes had made ten attempts to contact the aircraft on both military and civilian radio frequencies, but had received no response.

The International Civil Aviation Organization said that the flight crew should have been monitoring the civilian frequency.

Here is Air Crash Investigation video

According to the Iranian government, the cruiser negligently shot down the aircraft, which was transmitting IFF squawks in Mode III, a signal that identified it as a civilian aircraft, and not Mode II as used by Iranian military aircraft. The event generated a great deal of criticism of the United States. Some analysts blamed the captain of Vincennes, William C. Rogers III, for overly-aggressive behavior in a tense and dangerous environment. In the days immediately following the incident, US President Ronald Reagan issued a written diplomatic note to the Iranian government, expressing deep regret.

Here is Iran Air Flight 655 – Crash Animation Video

In 1996, the governments of the United States and Iran reached a settlement at the International Court of Justice which included the statement “…the United States recognized the aerial incident of 3 July 1988 as a terrible human tragedy and expressed deep regret over the loss of lives caused by the incident…

As part of the settlement, even though the U.S. government did not admit legal liability or formally apologize to Iran, it still agreed to pay US$61.8 million on an ex gratia basis, amounting to $213,103.45 per passenger, in compensation to the families of the Iranian victims.


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  1. I remember a news article stating that the passengers were dead when put on the plane due the decomposition of the bodies when the Navy did rescue operations.

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