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Wed May 17, 2017, 06:40 AM


30 yrs ago today: USS Stark nearly sunk by Iraqi Exocet missile



USS Stark was part of the Middle East Task Force assigned to patrol off the Saudi Arabian coast near the Iran–Iraq War exclusion boundary. An Iraqi pilot attacked USS Stark in a Dassault Falcon 50 modified business jet armed with two Exocet missiles.[1] Even though it did not have the capability at the time, American Intelligence was convinced the attack was made with a Dassault Mirage F1.[2] It took off from the airbase of Shaibah at 20:00 and headed south into the Persian Gulf also along the coast. The aircraft was flying 5,000 feet (1,500 m) above the water at 550 mi (890 km) per hour.[citation needed] An AWACS plane on patrol nearby, with an American and Saudi Arabian crew, first detected the incoming Iraqi jet and informed the Stark, which picked up the aircraft on radar, 200 miles (320 km) out.[citation needed] When it came within view just before 22:00, the attacker was off Stark's port side beam.

Initially not alarmed, at 22:09 Captain Brindel ordered a radioman to send the message: "Unknown aircraft, this is U.S. Navy warship on your 078 (degrees) for twelve miles. Request you identify yourself." The Iraqi Falcon pilot did not respond to the message. The ship's captain ordered a second message sent, to which there was no reply. At 22:10 hrs Captain Brindel was informed the Iraqi aircraft had targeted his ship, locking his Cyrano-IV fire-control radar onto Stark. The Falcon 50 then fired the first Exocet missile 22 miles (35 km) from the ship, and the second Exocet from 15 miles (24 km). The pilot then banked left and began to withdraw.

Stark's search radar and ESM systems failed to detect the incoming missiles. Captain Brindel suspected a possible Exocet attack but did not convey this clearly to the crew. He calmly requested a systems check including whether the Phalanx Close-In-Weapon-System (CIWS) system was "live". The crew reported no issue, he questioned again, however the crew repeated themselves believing he had simply not heard their first reply. Additionally due to miscommunication, the Captain believed the CIWS was "live" which to his mind meant; set to auto-targeting mode, but the crew were just reporting it was reading as operational (The CIWS was likely set to a passive mode waiting on the EMS.) Reassured falsely in the state of the ship, no further orders or evasive action was taken. It was not until seconds[citation needed] before the first hit that the Americans realized they were under fire.[citation needed] The first Exocet missile tracked in a little over 10 feet (3.0 m) above the sea surface[citation needed], and struck the port side of the ship near the bridge. Although it failed to explode, rocket fuel ignited and caused a large fire that quickly spread throughout the ship's post office, a store room, and the critical combat operations center (where the ship's weapons are controlled).

The second Exocet also struck the port side. This missile did detonate, leaving a 10 ft (3.0 m) by 15 ft (4.6 m) hole in the frigate's left side. Electronics for Stark's Standard Missile defense went out and Captain Brindel could not order his men to return fire. The AWACS plane was still in the area and just after witnessing the attack, it radioed a nearby Saudi airbase to send aircraft for an interception, but the ground controllers did not have the authority to order a sortie and the Iraqi jet escaped unharmed. The USN rules of engagement applicable at the time allowed Stark to defend herself after sufficiently warning the hostile aircraft.[3] A total of 37 crew were killed in the attack, 29 from the initial explosion and fire, including two lost at sea. Eight would later die from their injuries. Twenty-one others survived their wounds.

Throughout the remainder of the night and the following day, Stark's crew, along with sailors from the destroyer USS Conyngham fought the fire, which burned for almost 24 hours. Captain Brindel ordered the starboard side flooded to keep the hole on the hull's port side above water. This helped prevent the Stark from sinking. Brindel quickly dispatched a distress call after the first missile hit. It was received by USS Waddell, which was in the area, and Conyngham with  2⁄3 of its crew on liberty in Bahrain. Waddell and Conyngham arrived to provide damage control and relief to Stark's crew. Temporary Electronics Communications were installed by ETC Perry and team while Conyngham provided an escort for Stark as she slowly made her way to Bahrain.[citation needed]


Stark arrived at Bahrain the following day on 18 May 1987, under her own power. There she was temporarily repaired by the destroyer tender USS Acadia before setting a course for Mayport Naval Station, Florida, the ship's home port. A court of inquiry under Rear Admiral Grant Sharp was formed to investigate the incident and later Captain Brindel was recommended for court-martial. It was found that Stark was 2 miles (3.2 km) outside the exclusion zone and had not violated neutrality as the Iraqis claimed.[4] Iraq apologized,[5] and Saddam Hussein said that the pilot mistook Stark for an Iranian tanker. American officials claimed that the Iraqi jet's pilot was not acting under orders from his government, and that he was later executed. This has been disputed, as an Iraqi Air Force officer later stated that the pilot was not punished and that he was still alive.

Iranian Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi called it a "divine blessing" and reiterated the standard Iranian view that Persian Gulf "is not a safe place for the superpowers and it is in their interest not to enter this quicksand". Iraq Foreign Ministry spokesman said Iraq would never intentionally attack any target in the Gulf unless it was Iranian, and laid the blame on Iran.

Washington used the incident to turn up the heat on Iran, which later it blamed for the whole situation. President Reagan said "We’ve never considered them [Iraq's military] hostile at all", and "the villain in the piece is Iran".

Ironically, the Pentagon said that an Iranian helicopter had joined a Saudi Arabian vessel in rescue operations.[5] Adding to the irony, the Joint Chiefs of Staff investigation into the incident recommended that Iraq be held accountable, a finding the government of Iraq eventually complied with.

Captain Brindel was relieved of duty and retired for not defending his ship and Tactical Action Officer Lieutenant Basil E. Moncrief resigned. Back in the United States, President Ronald Reagan was criticized for putting American sailors in harm's way.

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Reply 30 yrs ago today: USS Stark nearly sunk by Iraqi Exocet missile (Original post)
Cooley Hurd May 2017 OP
JHB May 2017 #1
Javaman May 2017 #3
rickford66 May 2017 #2

Response to Cooley Hurd (Original post)

Wed May 17, 2017, 07:21 AM

1. And, to underscore the point, in response to a direct attack by a known source...

...and the death of 37 sailors, the response by the Reagan administration was nothing.

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Response to JHB (Reply #1)

Wed May 17, 2017, 09:07 AM

3. if it were george w. moron or now the orange menace...

bombs would have started raining down upon Australia.

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Response to Cooley Hurd (Original post)

Wed May 17, 2017, 08:17 AM

2. Didn't they try to stop at Kuwait for emergency repairs and were denied?

I was PO'd later when we rescued the Kuwaitis during the first Gulf War. As far as I was concerned, the Iraqis took took Kuwait fair and square. Our diplomat, April Glaspie, pretty much gave them the green light.

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