In supplement to the Lessons Learned Alert published Friday MDAA would like to provide further clarity and information on the U.S. Patriot fratricide that occurred nearly 20 years ago in Kuwait. We recognize the incidental deaths of two Royal British Air Force pilots that occurred when a U.S. Patriot battery engaged a British Tornado in 2003. This was categorically different from the errant Iranian shoot down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752.
The fratricide occurred on the night of March 22nd, 2003. This event is exclusive from Flight 752 in many different ways. The Tornado was on a sharp descent, much steeper than a normal landing, toward the runway and was classified by the Patriot system as an anti-radiation missile. An anti-radiation missile is an air-to-surface missile launched from an airplane that is designed to destroy a ground-based radar. From the Patriot crew’s perspective, the track was rapidly descending to their radar and would impact within seconds. The Tornado mirrored the flight path of an anti-radiation missile and was engaged in self-defense by the Patriot crew. Additionally, the Tornado did not respond to the U.S. Patriot crew’s request to declare itself as a friendly aircraft.
This incident is well-known within the Air Defense Artillery community and the lessons learned are carried forward nearly 20 years later. Allied and Joint missile defense operations in the Middle East have greatly progressed since 2003, resulting in no similar incidents. We stand with our allies in carrying on the legacy of the two Royal British Air Force pilots’ lives lost on that tragic day.