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    USS Stark incident

    USS incident

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    "USS Stark incident" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR

    USS incident

    Part of the Iran–Iraq War, Tanker War

    USS  listing after being struck by two Iraqi Exocet missiles in 1987

    Date 17 May 1987 Location

    off Saudi Arabia, Persian Gulf

    26°47′00″N 51°55′00″E / 26.78333°N 51.91667°E

    Result U.S. frigate severely damaged by Iraqi aircraft

    Belligerents United States  Iraq

    Commanders and leaders

    Glenn R. Brindel Abdul Rahman

    Units involved

    USS Iraqi Armed Forces



    1 frigate


    1 aircraft 1 aircraft[1]

    Casualties and losses

    37 killed 21 wounded

    1 frigate damaged None

    show vte Iran–Iraq War

    The USS incident occurred during the Iran–Iraq War on 17 May 1987, when an Iraqi jet aircraft fired two Exocet missiles at the American frigate USS . A total of thirty-seven United States Navy personnel were killed or later died as a result of the attack, and twenty-one were injured.


    1 Incident 2 Aftermath 2.1 Claims 3 Memorials 4 See also 5 References 6 Sources 7 Further reading


    See also: USS Stark (FFG-31) § Missile attack

    Damage to USS 's hull and superstructure

    USS  was part of the Middle East Task Force assigned to patrol off the Saudi Arabian coast near the Iran–Iraq War exclusion boundary. At the time, the United States Central Command identified the attacking aircraft as an Iraqi Dassault Mirage F1 fighter.[1] However, later reporting has asserted that the attacking aircraft was a Dassault Falcon 50 business jet which had been modified with a radar and missile hardpoints to carry two AM-39 Exocet missiles for anti-shipping operations. The F1EQ-5 variant of the Mirage F1 operated by Iraq at the time was only capable of carrying a single Exocet. Iraq had previously used modified Falcon jets in civilian markings to conduct covert photographic reconnaissance in the Persian Gulf to avoid attracting suspicion.[2][3][4][5]

    Initially not alarmed, at 22:09 Captain Glenn R. 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 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 Captain Brindel was informed the Iraqi aircraft had targeted his ship, locking his Cyrano-IV fire-control radar onto . The Iraqi aircraft 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.

    's search radar, ESM and CIWS systems failed to detect the incoming missiles.[1] The first Exocet missile struck the port side of the ship near the bridge. Although it failed to detonate, rocket fuel ignited and caused a large fire that quickly spread throughout the ship's post office, storeroom, and the critical combat operations center (where the ship's weapons are controlled).

    The second Exocet also struck the port side, 30 seconds later.[1] This missile detonated, leaving a 10 by 15 ft (3.0 by 4.6 m) hole in the frigate's left side. Electronics for 's Standard Missile defense went out and Captain Brindel could not order his men to return fire. An AWACS plane was still in the area and just after witnessing the attack, 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 left unharmed. The USN (United States Navy) rules of engagement applicable at the time allowed to defend herself after sufficiently warning the hostile aircraft.[6] A total of 37 crew were killed in the attack, 29 from the initial explosion and fire, including two lost at sea. Eight later died from their injuries. Twenty-one others survived their wounds.

    Captain Brindel ordered the starboard side flooded to keep the hole on the hull's port side above water. This helped prevent the from sinking. Brindel quickly dispatched a distress call after the first missile hit. It was received by USS , which was in the area, and USS  with two-thirds of its crew on liberty in Bahrain. and arrived to provide damage control and relief to 's crew. According to the Pentagon, an Iranian helicopter joined a Saudi Arabian vessel to aid in rescue operations.[7]


    See also: USS Stark (FFG-31) § Missile attack

    arrived at Bahrain the following day, 18 May 1987. There she was temporarily repaired by the destroyer tender USS  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 but was ultimately only reprimanded and relieved of duty.[8] It was found that was 2 miles (3.2 km) outside the exclusion zone and had not violated neutrality as the Iraqis claimed.[9] Iraq apologized,[10] and Saddam Hussein said that the pilot mistook for an Iranian tanker.

    Source : en.wikipedia.org

    The Only Missile Attack on the Modern US Navy Was Fired by an Iraqi Business Plane

    Saddam Hussein's Iraq said it mistook the Stark for Iranian oil tanker.

    The Only Missile Attack on the Modern US Navy Was Fired by an Iraqi Business Plane

    In the Persian Gulf, a port quarter view of the guided missile frigate USS Stark listing to port after being hit by two Iraqi Exocet missiles within 30 seconds. (U.S. Navy)

    Military.com | By Blake Stilwell

    Although first produced in 1967, the French-made Exocet anti-ship missile has a deadly service history. The weapon uses active radar to home in on its target, skims the ocean surface as it approaches its target and hits with a high-explosive, semi-armor piercing warhead at just below the speed of sound.

    It’s also a versatile weapon and civilian jets can be modified to fire the Exocet missile, as the U.S. Navy uncovered after the USS Stark was hit by two of them in the Persian Gulf in 1987.


    Flying in at high speeds, just 6.5 feet above the water, the Exocet missile is a very hard weapon to see and even more difficult to defend against. So when an Iraqi aircraft fired two Exocet missiles at the USS Stark in 1987, the American guided missile frigate was lucky to survive. U.S. sailors weren't so lucky.

    Exocet missiles didn't see combat until the United Kingdom went to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands in 1982. The Royal Navy's chief concern was Argentina's Exocet missile stockpile.

    The bulk of British naval losses came at the hands of Argentine Exocet missiles, sinking the guided missile destroyer HMS Sheffield and the supply ship MV Atlantic Conveyor. Exocets also damaged other British ships and killed dozens of sailors.


    The USS Stark was in the Persian Gulf to protect oil tankers traversing through the area from being attacked by Iranian forces. At the time, Iran and Iraq had been at war for seven years in a brutal stalemate that killed an estimated half-million people on both sides.

    Although officially neutral in the conflict, the United States provided significant materiel support to Iraq, as well as protection for international shipping in the Persian Gulf region and through the Strait of Hormuz. The USS Stark was part of that mission. Nearly a dozen tankers and merchant vessels had been sunk in the region since the start of the Iran-Iraq War, all by Exocet missiles.

    On May 17, 1987, Stark was off the coast of Saudi Arabia, outside the Iran-Iraq War's exclusion zone at just after 10 p.m. local time when it picked up an incoming aircraft. Originally believed to be a Dassault Mirage F1 fighter, Stark requested it to identify itself when it turned toward the ship. No reply came. No reply came for the ship's second request, either.

    In less than 10 minutes after first detecting the incoming craft, the ship was targeted by the jet's radar. It fired two Exocet missiles and then withdrew. The Stark didn't detect either of the incoming missiles until they were 1.5 minutes away. Stark's air defenses did not activate in time, and both hit the ship on its port side.

    The first missile warhead failed to detonate but penetrated the hull. Fuel from the missile caught fire and spread through the ship's interior, including its weapons control systems. The ship was unable to defend itself. Thirty seconds later, the second missile hit Stark and exploded, ripping a 15-foot-wide hole in the port side.

    A view of damage sustained by the guided missile frigate USS Stark when it was hit by two Iraqi-launched Exocet missile while on patrol in the Persian Gulf. (U.S. Navy)

    Thirty-seven sailors were killed or lost at sea in the attack. Another 21 were wounded but survived. Stark never fired a weapon in defense or in retaliation, and the Iraqi fighter escaped the area unharmed. The Stark began to list after the attack, and the ship's captain, Capt. Glenn Brindel, ordered the starboard side of the vessel flooded to keep it level and prevent it from sinking.

    The U.S. Navy's board of inquiry determined that the attack could not have come from a Mirage F1 fighter, as that aircraft could only fire one Exocet missile. It was actually from a Dassault Falcon 50 business jet, modified to fire Exocet missiles.

    In the aftermath of the attack, Capt. Brindel was reprimanded and relieved of duty. He opted to retire early, but since he had not held the rank of captain long enough, he was forced to retire as a commander.

    Iran called the incident a "divine blessing" and warned the West to stay out of the Persian Gulf. Iraq, controlled by Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime at the time, apologized for the attack and agreed to pay $27.3 million in compensation to the families of the 37 US Navy personnel killed.

    President Ronald Reagan did not take Iran's warning. Instead, he recommitted the U.S. to protecting international shipping in the area and maintained the U.S. Navy presence. The USS Stark was escorted to Bahrain for repairs before returning to port in Florida. It returned to the Middle East in the 1990s before being decommissioned in 1997.

    -- Blake Stilwell can be reached at [email protected] He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

    Source : www.military.com

    The Attack on USS Stark at 30

    On May 17, 1987, USS Stark (FFG-31) was on patrol when it was struck by two Iraqi Exocet missiles in the midst of the Iran-Iraq War.

    Home » Budget Industry » The Attack on USS Stark at 30

    The Attack on USS Stark at 30

    By: Sam LaGrone

    May 17, 2017 4:22 PM • Updated: May 17, 2017 5:30 PM

    USS Stark (FFG-31) on May 18, 1987. US Navy

    On May 17, 1987, the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Stark (FFG-31) was on patrol when it was struck by two Iraqi Exocet missiles in the midst of the Iran-Iraq War.

    The missiles were fired from an Iraqi Dassault Mirage F1 by a pilot who thought the U.S. frigate was an Iranian tanker.

    “The first missile punched through the hull near the port bridge wing, eight feet above the waterline. It bored a flaming hole through berthing spaces, the post office, and the ship’s store, spewing rocket propellant along its path. Burning at 3,500 degrees, the weapon ground to a halt in a corner of the chiefs’ quarters, and failed to explode,” wrote Brad Peniston in his book No Higher Honor from the Naval institute Press.

    “The second missile, which hit five feet farther forward, detonated as designed. The fire burned for almost a day, incinerating the crew’s quarters, the radar room, and the combat information center.”

    Thirty-seven sailors died as a result of the missile strikes and the ship was sidelined for repairs for more than a year.

    The following are material from the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Naval Insitute photo archives and oral histories on the Stark incident and its aftermath.

    Rear Adm. Harold J. Bernsen, USN

    Commander Middle East Force from 1986 to 1988

    Oral History Excerpt

    Rear Admiral Harold J Bernsen. US Navy Photo

    Between the period of ’80 to ’85, there was relatively little activity at sea, as I recall. But that began to change as the Iraqis sensed that one way to put pressure on the Iranians was if they could curtail the flow of oil out of Iran onto the world market. Almost all of the Iranian export capacity was funneled through Kharg Island—not all of it but almost all of it—in the northern part of the Gulf, just to the east of the Shatt al-Arab. So the Iraqis began to concentrate on interrupting the flow of shipping that carried that oil from Kharg Island down the Gulf and out through the Strait of Hormuz to other world ports. They did this by attacking Iranian and other world shipping that was carrying Iranian crude. They did it primarily by attacking those ships in the so-called Iranian self‑proclaimed war zone, extending to the south from the coast of Iran and encompassing almost half of the Persian Gulf.

    In retaliation for those attacks, the Iranians, in turn, had decided to attack ships also. But since the Iraqis did not have any ships in the Gulf, in the vicinity of the Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, or in the Gulf of Oman, the only targets that the Iranians could strike were those which consisted of ships transiting the Gulf and the strait, in trade with the Gulf Arabs, all of whom by definition were allies or at least in one way or another in support of the Iraqis.

    So you had in essence two quite different anti-shipping regimes, but regardless of the basic difference in the two, the overall result was the same: a Gulf that was confused, frightened, a war zone. There was not a great deal loss of life, but an awful lot of economic destruction, and a really confused and a rather perilous area, particularly if you were a commercial shipper…

    We were sitting at dinner when the watch came down from the war room and informed me of a report from the Air Force AWACS that was flying out of Saudi Arabia. The report was that an Iraqi aircraft had been detected and was coming south out of Iraq. That was not unusual. I won’t say it was normal but almost normal.

    Iraqi Mirage F1

    They would come down from Baghdad and the airfields around Baghdad and skirt the western edge of the northern Gulf. Then at some point, which we surmised was a point where they detected on their air-to-surface radar a shipping contact, presumably Iranian, along the Iranian coast to the east, they would then turn east and launch a missile at that contact.

    There was no identification procedure that was followed. It was simply a blind shot. The fact is on many occasions they actually hit. These were Exocet missiles, and they actually were able to strike the target. The Exocet is an extremely good missile, and the French had supplied the Iraqis with a good many of them, and they were practiced in their use.

    ‘The Stark Report’

    by Michael Vlahos

    Proceedings, May 1988

    Damage on USS Stark (FFG-31) following the May 17, 1987 attack. U.S. Naval Institute Archive

    The Stark’s commanding officer. Captain Glenn R. Brindel was informed of the lraqi aircraft`s presence by at least 2005, when the aircraft was about 200 nautical miles away.

    Lieutenant Basil E. Moncrief was on watch in the Stark‘s combat information center (CIC), serving as tacti­cal action officer (TAO). Captain Brindel stopped in the CIC at about 2015 and was reminded about the Iraqi air­craft.

    Source : news.usni.org

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