Why a US Warship Downed an Iranian Passenger Jet Over the Gulf in 1988

Tuesday commemorates the 30th anniversary of the crash of Iran Air Flight 655, downed by the US guided missile cruiser Vincennes over the Persian Gulf. All 290 people on board, including 66 children, were killed in what is believed to be one of the worst disasters in the history of aviation.

Two Missiles From a US Warship

Iran’s Airbus A300 was downed by the USS Vincennes over the Gulf on July 3, 1988, when the passenger jet was en route from Tehran to Dubai within the international air corridor at an altitude of 14,000 feet (4,300 meters).

After receiving no response to its multiple radio challenges and assuming the Airbus A300 was an Iranian F-14 Tomcat, the Vincennes fired two SM-2MR surface-to-air missiles, one of which actually broke the airliner in two.

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The plane began to disintegrate immediately and crashed into the water, killing all 290 people on board.

While citing Iran Air Flight 655 ignoring repeated demands to change course, Vincennes sailors preferred to keep mum on the fact that they tried to contact the Iranian plane’s crew using a military radio frequency.

Action of Intimidation

Commenting on the matter in an interview with Sputnik, Russian military expert Yuri Lyamin recalled that at the time, Iran and the United States were on the brink of war and that “the situation in the region was very tense, with US Navy ships being on constant alert.”

A funeral procession is held for six Pakistani and Indian nationals who were killed aboard Iran Air Flight 655, July 12, 1988, in Iran

He also reminded that “during the last months of the Iran-Iraq conflict, United States repeatedly attacked Iran’s ships, destroying several motor boats and damaging a military frigate”.

“They [US] deliberately took that step. They wanted to demonstrate to Iran that they would shoot down any, even civilian planes, if they consider them a threat to their ships. This was another element of the use of force tactics,” Lyamin underlined.

He added that after the Iran Air Flight 655 crash, many were concerned about a possible military confrontation between Tehran and Washington, something that Lyamin said finally prompted Iran to stop its war with Iraq.“Teheran could not fight on two fronts, it would be a [political] suicide,” he pointed out.The Iran Air Flight 655 crash is considered to be one of the bloodiest episodes of the eight-year Iran-Iraq conflict which killed hundreds of thousands of people on both sides.The Vincennes missile cruiser was part of a US naval task force to protect trade caravans and oil tankers from the Iranian Navy. In a show of support for Iraq, the US deployed its warships to the Persian Gulf region in mid-1988.Entering service in 1985, the Vincennes was equipped with the Tomahawk cruise missiles, powerful artillery, torpedo armament and anti-aircraft guided missiles SM-2MR and the Aegis combat system. An inevitable Mistake? Speaking to Sputnik, another Russian military expert, Mikhail Khodaryonok admitted that “mistakes are inevitable, especially […]

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