Military Mishaps Not Specific to IranMarizieh Motahhari
A few days ago, the news of a friendly-fire incident in Iran made headlines around the world. In the mishap that took place near the southern Iranian port city of Jask, a Hendijan-class support ship, named Konarak, was struck while participating in a training exercise in the Gulf of Oman.
“On Sunday evening… during naval exercises performed by a number of the naval force’s vessels in the waters of Jask and Chabahar, an accident happened involving the Konarak light support ship vessel, causing the martyrdom of a number of brave members of the naval forces,” Iranian navy said in statement.
The frigate Jamaran on Sunday hit the support ship with a new anti-ship missile which was being tested. Based on official reports, Konarak was struck “after moving a practice target to its destination and not creating enough distance between itself and the target”.
It is not yet clear how the strike took place and the issue is being investigated. However, there are two possibilities. One is that Jamaran may have locked on to the support ship as the closest and largest vessel it encountered when it turned on the radar for final target-acquisition of the missile. And the other is that the Jamaran crew might have made a targeting mistake. But whatever the cause was, we should have it mind that training casualties and incidents of friendly-fire are not specific to Iran.
Iran is not alone
Although strict procedures and effective command can reduce the risks, exercising with live missiles is by itself dangerous. Such mishaps have happened almost in all other countries of the world too, but let’s consider the US as an example.
Based on the statistics that the American War Library provides, 13 percent of US casualties in Afghanistan War and 41 percent of US casualties in the Iraq War were in fact friendly fire casualties.
For instance, on December 5, 2001, just at the beginning of the US war against Afghanistan, three US Special Forces were killed by friendly fire when a US bomb hit north of Kandahar. In another incident in the country in June 2014, five American troops were killed when “a B-1 bomber mistakenly dropped its weapon on the commandos for unknown reasons”.
As for the Iraq War, in the first year of US attack against the country, an American aircraft attacked a friendly Kurdish & U.S. Special Forces convoy and killed 15 people, including some journalists. Or in another mishap in March 2003, a U.S. Patriot missile shot down an RAF Tornado jet and killed two crewmen. Investigations showed that the Tornado was not identified as a friendly aircraft as the jet’s indicator malfunctioned.
US records in “friendly fire”
The statistics about the US military trainings and drills are startling too, as more Americans have died during the exercises than in combat operations. Based on a congressional report which was updated in May 2019, "Since 2006 ... a total of 16,652 active-duty personnel and mobilized reservists have died while serving in the US armed forces. Seventy-three percent of these casualties occurred under circumstances unrelated to war.” This trend seems to have gained momentum recently, as noncombat deaths have exceeded the number of military members killed in action every year since 2015.
In a report made by the US House Armed Service Committee, it was stated “that nearly four times as many military personnel died in training accidents as were killed in combat” in 2018. According to the report, 21 American forces died in combat in 2018 while 80 died as a result of non- combat training-related accidents. And just in spring 2019, 25 American forces were killed in military aviation mishaps.
The US military mishaps are not limited to aviation. In August 2018, the US Navy lost 17 sailors in separate collisions involving the USS John S. McCain and the USS Fitzgerald, both due to ongoing Navy readiness problems.
According to Washington Examiner, “Twenty U.S. Army soldiers died in training accidents over the last year, while another 70 were seriously injured”. But despite all such incidents, the US considers rigorous training as necessary to confront the enemies of the country. "America’s ability to deter and defeat great power adversaries depends on the readiness of our forces. That is impossible without tough and realistic training," former Army pilot Bradley Bowman, who runs the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told Washington examiner.
Same is true about Iran, a country surrounded by dozens of US and NATO military forces. It has not been long since President Donald Trump instructed the US Navy in a tweet to "shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats" that “harass” US ships. So a country which is constantly being threatened by the US and its allies must be fully prepared to confront any possible hostile action and thus military exercises are vital to keep its forces ready despite the possible casualties which of course need to be reduced.