"We're in jail, dude," said US jet pilot

'We're in jail, dude,' said US jet pilot

By Stephanie Condron


The pilot of an American warplane that twice fired on British soldiers in Iraq can be heard to say "We're in jail, dude" over his radio when he realises his mistake, it was revealed today.

L/Cpl Hull was killed in March, 2003

The other pilot, who opened fire, weeps, saying: "God dammit."

The contents of a cockpit video recording showing the “friendly-fire” incident which killed L/Cpl Matty Hull was published in the Sun newspaper today.

The Ministry of Defence was insisting last night the footage should still not be released to the dead soldier’s family, even though its contents have now been published.

L/Cpl Hull was killed in March, 2003, when two American A-10 tankbusters attacked British forces despite radio calls and smoke grenade warnings.

Colleagues fought to rescue (external - login to view) the 25-year-old Household Cavalry soldier from his blazing Scimitar armoured vehicle but he died of multiple wounds.

The pilots of the planes are told on the video that there are no coalition troops in the area.

Nevertheless, on several occasions they appear to question the presence of orange panels, used to identify coalition forces, on top of the armoured vehicles.

However, the conclusion is reached that the orange panels are rocket launchers.

Andrew Walker, the Oxfordshire assistant deputy coroner who is investigating L/Cpl Hull's death, has seen the video at a private viewing and last week urged the MoD (external - login to view) to let the dead soldier’s family see it.

The MoD said at L/Cpl Hull’s inquest last week that it was not possible to release the tape because it was classified information.

Mr Walker responded that he "had no choice" but to delay his verdict until the recording of the incident was produced, adding that the failure of the MoD to get authorisation to show the video was a "matter of profound regret" and "greatly saddens" him.

The MoD insisted last night: “This recording is the property of the United States government and the MoD does not have the right to release it without their permission.”

Joy at direct hit turns to horror

Horror ... Matty, left, died in an armoured vehicle hit by US tankbuster like the ones pictured, right. Centre pictures show killer pilot's view as he attacked Brit convoy twice, despite markings showing they were friendly troops
Right picture: REUTERS


Defence Editor
February 06, 2007

* Americans made SIX errors that led to the attack on the British

* Americans were inside an area they had been told NOT to shoot into

* British carried orange overhead canvas panels used to identify coalition forces to aircraft

* British also displayed thermal cameras and Union Flags

THE Sun today publishes the full, disturbing truth about how the US pilot of an A-10 tankbuster jet broke all the rules to shoot up a British convoy in the Iraq war.

We obtained the cockpit videotape at the centre of a diplomatic row between the two Allies.

It shows how the pilots — reservists who had never been in action before — made SIX crucial errors.

They left 25-year-old Lance Corporal of Horse Matty Hull dead and four comrades from the Household Cavalry Regiment seriously injured.

On the tape, one pilot — call sign POPOV36 - appears to gloat sickeningly during the attack.

He is egged on by the second — call sign POPOV35 — who encourages: “Get him, get him!”

Looking down at the chaos as a soldier drags burning comrades from the vehicles, he adds: “It looks like he is hauling ***. Ha Ha.”

Grief ... Matty’s body comes home

A second burst of fire is unleashed 98 seconds after the first. Moments later the pilots are told the truth over the radio.

As they take in the horror, POPOV35 says: “We’re in jail dude”. POPOV36 weeps as they return to base: “God dammit. F*** me dead.”

The “top secret” tape has been seen by the Oxfordshire coroner who is holding L/Cpl Hull’s inquest, but both the Ministry of Defence and the US government have REFUSED to let him show it in court.

L/Cpl Hull’s widow Susan, of Wiltshire, was even told it did not exist.

She said last night: “I’m very relieved this is being made public at long last. I can’t believe these pilots can discuss what they’re doing so casually when these are the last moments of my husband’s life.”

Defence officials insist their hands were tied by a legal pledge with the Pentagon not to reveal any of their secrets. But we can reveal there is NOTHING secret on the tape. But it WILL cause appalling embarrassment.

The tragedy unfolded on March 28, 2003 — day seven of the invasion to topple Saddam.

The two single-seat, slow-flying jets were nearing the end of a two-hour mission to destroy artillery and rocket launchers from Saddam’s 6 Armor Division, dug in 25 miles north of Basra.

Anger ... Widow Susan

They were being guided to their targets by Forward Air Controllers from the US Marine Corps — embedded with British ground units and relying on maps, intelligence and the pilots’ own vision.

At the same time, the convoy of British armoured vehicles — two Scimitars and two Spartans — were moving north to probe enemy lines.

They were inside an area US pilots had been told not to shoot into, and carried orange overhead canvas panels used to identify coalition forces to aircraft. They also displayed thermal reflectors and Union Flags.

Circling at an altitude of 12,000ft, the A-10s spotted Iraqi vehicles 800 yards north, and the British patrol less than three miles west.

ERROR ONE came when they asked the Forward Air Controller, call sign Manila Hotel, if friendly forces were around the Iraqi vehicles — not to the west.

In ERROR TWO neither pilot gave the precise grid references for the Household Cavalry patrol to double check its identity.

ERROR THREE saw them convince themselves the identification panels were really orange rocket launchers.

In ERROR FOUR POPOV36 decides to attack, saying he is “rolling in” — without permission from the Forward Air Controller. POPOV35 asks for artillery to fire a marker round into the target area to clear up confusion.

Hero ... Chris Finney

But ERROR FIVE came when POPOV36 attacked without waiting for it.

In ERROR SIX POPOV36 strafes the column for a second time but still doubts its identity.

Only the bravery of Trooper Chris Finney, 18, stopped further attacks. He jumped on a burning vehicle to radio in a Mayday report and call off the strike, dragged a badly wounded comrade from the inferno, then went back in for L/Cpl Hull. He was injured and won the George Cross.

POPOV36 is known to be a lieutenant colonel, and POPOV35 a major, but their identities have never been released. Neither has the result of a US Air Force inquiry.

Last night a senior US military source told The Sun: “This tape needs to get out. The pilots need to be brought to account.”

An MoD spokesman said: “There has never been any intention to deliberately deceive or mislead L/Cpl Hull’s family. We did inform them some classified material had been withheld.”

Friendly fire ... how it all happened

t.newtondunn@the-sun.co.uk (external - login to view)

Last edited by Blackleaf; Feb 6th, 2007 at 10:16 AM..
you know, not once during the previous editions of this news item did i think about how the american airmen felt when they realised what had happened.

I shouldn't have been so harsh, those guys will have a hard time getting over this.
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