Iran Air Flight 655Sunday July 3, 1988
The civilian Iranian airliner was shot down by the U.S. Navy vessel U.S.S. Vincennes with surface-to-air missiles. The Vincennes was protecting other civilian ships in the area from Iranian gunboats. The Vincennes responded to hostile action taking place against a ship by Iranian gun boats. However, orders to the captain were to send a helicopter to investigate but maintain position. In fact, the ship headed towards the hostilities and penetrated 2nm inside Iranian territorial waters and after the helicopter was fired upon, engaged the enemy boats. The ill-fated airliner was delayed in leaving Bandar Abbas because of a problem with the passport of a passenger. Soon after taking off the target appeared on the radar of the Vincennes. Because the plane was late and confusion of time zones, the crew was not expecting an airliner in the area. When the target was first identified, it squawked both 2 (military) and 3 (civilian). The reason for this was the radar tracker ball was left in the vicinity of the Bandar Abbas airport and the radar was picking up both the airliner and a military F-14 jet fighter at the same time. Playing it safe, the plane was misidentified as a F-14 Iranian fighter. The aircraft did not respond to 10 radio challenges from the Vincennes. However, 7 were on military frequencies which the airliner could not pick up. Three were on the civil emergency frequency addressed to the so called military F-14. When the plane was nearing 10 miles from the ship, it was reported to the captain that the aircraft was descending. At that time the surface-to-air missiles were fired destroying the aircraft. At the inquiry computer data showed that the plane was never descending and actually was ascending at a steady rate. Incredibly, a military investigation concluded that although the U.S. government regretted the loss of human life, the captain and crew were not at fault and acted properly in shooting down the airliner.