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Explanation for Iranian Jet Tragedy

September 03, 1988

According to the latest explanation of the Navy, some crew members of the Vincennes misinterpreted some data from the computers of the Aegis combat control system and erroneously identified the Iranian airliner as an F-14.

Around all bases in the United States and in most parts of the world, whenever operators of the system turned it on for training or operations, they would see dozens, if not hundreds, of commercial airliners on routine scheduled flights. If such flights could appear on the system as hostile fighter planes, the designers, operators, instructors, and trainees of the system must have noticed the possibility before. One cannot reasonably believe that this problem first appeared in the Persian Gulf when a plane carrying 290 people approached the ship. The key inquiry should be why the Navy and the builders of the system didn't fix the problem before a tragedy occurred.

B. CLARK JR.

Los Angeles

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