Miscommunication Caused Friendly Fire Drone Killings

Warning by US-based analysts never sent to operator, ground forces: Report
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 15, 2011 7:31 AM CDT
Miscommunication Caused Friendly Fire Drone Killings
In this 2010 file photo, an unmanned Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan. Poor communications have been blamed for a friendly fire attack that killed two soldiers in April.   (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

(Newser) – The two US servicemen killed by a Predator in April died because Marines on the ground and the Air Force crew operating the drone were not told by analysts elsewhere of doubts about the men's identity, reports the LA Times. The incident occurred on April 6 when a Marine platoon came under enemy fire in a volatile part of Helmand province. A Predator's infrared cameras picked up on three soldiers who had been separated from the platoon, but an assessment by Air Force analysts monitoring the video feed from Indiana that the men were possibly friendly never made it to the Predator operator, based in Nevada, or to Marine commanders at the scene.

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The 381-page report, which has not been officially released, blames poor communications, wrong assumptions, and "a lack of overall common situational awareness" for the deaths, believed to be the first friendly fire killings by unmanned aerial vehicle. It does not single out any individual as "culpably negligent," notes the Times. "I know whoever was at that [Predator] joystick is devastated," says the father of one of the soldiers killed. "If I could meet them, I'd hug them and tell them I don't have any ill feelings toward them." (Read more Afghanistan stories.)

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