Thursday, November 17, 2005

Fighting Friendly Fire

It's a staggering statistic: In the 1991 Gulf War, 35 of the 148 US combat deaths came from allied fire. In other words, fratricide was to blame for just under one in four US combat deaths.

Despite technological superiority over its adversaries, the US still lost a shameful number of its own men to friendly fire. Compare the results of various studies that estimate the some 12-15% of casualties in combat during the 20th century overall were the result of friendly fire, and the 23.6% lost to fratricide during the 1991 Gulf War can only be considered a disgrace.

However, it must be noted, as my colleague Ted McKenna did in an article on the subject of fratricide last year, that Gulf War marked a new era in warfare, with the introduction of a precision-guided weapons and the melding of different services and different countries’ forces on the same battlefield, which may explain the rise in fratricide. Certainly, because of the speed and precision of weapons today, friendly-fire incidents, when they occur, are more likely to be deadly. Add to this the split-second pace required for decision-making today, and you've got a recipe for trouble.

That said, it's good to see that the US military is taking steps to avoid fratricide: from joint exercise with French and British troops conducted last year to the new combat-ID devices being developed for the US army's Future Combat Systems (FCS). Hopefully, efforts such as these will lead to fewer cases of brother killing brother.


At 9:42 AM, Blogger Eric Blair said...

Are there any statistics for friendly fire casualties in either Afghanistan or Iraq?

I know of at least two incidents in Afghanistan.


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