Operation Provide Comfort:
Review of U.S. Air Force Investigation of Black Hawk Fratricide Incident
OSI-98-4: Published: Nov 5, 1997. Publicly Released: Nov 5, 1997.
- Full Report:
Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed military investigations made subsequent to the April 14, 1994, shootdown by U.S. Air Force F-15 fighters of two Army Black Hawk helicopters over Iraq in which 26 individuals died.
GAO noted that: (1) the Aircraft Accident Investigation Board conducted an extensive investigation that complied with evidentiary requirements and guidelines in collecting and preserving evidence and produced a report that, with a few exceptions, provided an overview of the factual circumstances relating to the accident; (2) the report focused on command and control problems, including individuals' lack of knowledge of specific procedures, but: (a) did not discuss the F-15 pilots' responsibility to report to the Airborne Command Element when encountering an unknown aircraft; and (b) cited a statement that inaccurately portrayed the Airborne Command Element as not having authority to stop the incident, even though evidence that the Airborne Command Element had the authority was available to the Board; (3) the Board President erroneously concluded that the Black Hawks' use of an incorrect electronic identification code resulted in the F-15 pilots not receiving an electronic response; (4) family members and others raised concerns about a perceived general lack of discipline in the F-15 pilot community in Operation Provide Comfort and a perceived urgency by the pilots to engage during the shootdown, but the Board's report and opinion did not discuss these issues; (5) Operation Provide Comfort officials stated that the pilots' failure to contact the Airborne Command Element was the result of a lack of F-15 mission discipline at the time of the incident; (6) the officials stated that, in their view, there was no reason for the F-15 pilots' urgency to engage; (7) these issues are not inconsistent with the Board President's conclusion regarding the chain of events, but including them in the Board's report may have raised additional questions about the pilots' actions and the Airborne Command Element that could have been useful in subsequent proceedings; (8) during its review of the Aircraft Accident Investigation Board process, GAO found no evidence of improper or unlawful command influence; (9) the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) investigations complied with provisions of the UCMJ and the Manual for Courts-Martial; (10) GAO found no evidence of improper or unlawful command influence in the UCMJ investigations, but was unable to confirm whether the consideration and disposition of suspected offenses under the UCMJ were the result of improper or unlawful command influence; and (11) the Air Force Chief of Staff took additional personnel actions after finding that a number of individuals' performance evaluations had not reflected their failure to meet Air Force standards.