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Friendly Fire by Firebase Hailstorm

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  • Friendly Fire by Firebase Hailstorm

    From: Garthra, Hailstorm FCO
    To: Thirdsin, Commander

    Summary of the Issue:
    Thus recorded are the recollections and sorrows of FCO Garthra, of Firebase Hailstorm, on October fifth, 2012 at roughly 11:50pm. This is intended to be a partial explanation and partial apology for the unforgivable sin of friendly fire by one M119 gun under my command. It is also an investigation of what went wrong. I, Garthra, take complete responsibility for the deaths caused by my guns. The crew is blameless, as they were following my orders, and under my supervision.

    The Fire Mission
    A fire mission for 4X High Explosive and 4X Willy Pete was given at roughly 11:15pm to Firebase Hailstorm, under the control of Garthra. It was executed, and resulted in friendly fire, causing several casualties, including some KIA. Radio comms ordered Hailstorm to cease fire, but it was too late, as several additional rounds had already been fired. These rounds impacted, presumably causing more casualties.

    Comments from the Ground Forces
    After the mission the following comments were made:
    1.) That Hailstorm was mistakenly targeting Preset Reg 4 which is where friendlies were located, but the FO had directed the rounds onto Reg 1, where enemies were.
    2.) That several rounds landed right on friendlies, but other rounds landed 100 meters away.

    These two assertions, although impossible to verify, may shed some light as to the cause of the friendly fire.

    The one comment suggests an error by the FCO in entering the target preset grid coordinates, or rather firing on preset 4, and not preset 1 as requested. This is possible, but the FCOs notes state the following “4WP, 4HE, Reg 1.” This suggests that the gun was intended to be aimed at Reg 1. However, a misclick or typographical error could still cause rounds to be directed at Reg 4, despite the intent of the FCO being to fire at Reg 1. It is unlikely that the FCO simply entered in the coordinates for Reg 4 incorrectly, as these were double checked, but this too is possible.

    The second comment suggests that the variation of the rounds was such that although the first round may have been on target, the spread of the rounds was too great, and caused some friendlies to be hit.

    The settings of the gun:
    The gun was being fired by Liquid, a competent and experienced gunner. His notes recorded the following fire mission data was given to him by the FCO, which he executed: Deflection 3349, Elevation 409. He varied the elevation and deflection by +5, because he was ordered to spread the rounds. This would mean he fired with the following inputs: started at Deflection 3349, Elevation 409, which were from the FCO. Then he altered to deflection 3354, elevation 414, then deflection 3359 and elevation 419, and then finally deflection 3364, elevation 424.

    A report was made by a loader, after the fire mission, that the gun was set at elevation 417 at the conclusion of the mission. This is consistent with Liquid’s recollection, and the normal movement of the gun during firing. Based on this data, I am inclined to believe Liquid fired the mission he claims to have fired. However, I believe he only fired at 3 coordinates. (Stopping at deflection 3359, elevation 419.) The firing of the gun can alter the elevation by 1 or 2, due to the jerking motion of the gun when fired. Also it is not clear if the loader actually leveled the gun before reading the elevation, or if he left it unleveled. Therefore his number of 417, while not precisely corresponding to the mission Liquid claims to have fired, is close enough to confirm he fired roughly as he claimed.

    Ops, who is an experienced loader was preparing and loading the rounds. He reported the charge on the rounds was 4. Previous to the fire mission in question, most fire missions had been charge 3, and so it is possible that a mistake was made in the charge. I could not independently confirm the charge on the rounds, but Ops is generally reliable.

    The Pre Set Targets:
    The Pre set targets in question were:
    Reg 1: 6805,1755, 98 elevation.
    Reg 4, 6792, 1734, 98 elevation.

    Testing and Results:
    I recreated the mission from notes. Placing the gun, and the targets exactly as they were on their 8 digits. I then re-entered the fire mission pre sets from my notes. I finally placed several infantry at presets 1 and 4.

    Next I went to the battery computer and re entered in the fire mission for preset 1 and preset 4. The fire mission data for preset Reg 4 matched the fire mission data Liquid and Ops recalled. When I fired this mission, using the fire mission data from my notes, and Liquid and Ops's recollections, the hit killed the infantry placed at preset Reg 4, on the first round. Subsquent movement of the gun, +5 elevation and +5 deflection, per Liquid’s recollection, moved the round away from preset 4, in a north eastern direction. The second volley may have injured infantry at Reg 4, but was unlikely to kill them. The second adjustment, and thus the third round, was too far to injure them, and roughly 100 meters away, again, NE roughly, from the first strike.

    Based upon the test conducted, it appears the cause of the friendly fire was a misclick by the FCO, which caused the fire mission to be directed at Reg 4, not Reg 1. Although the FCO notes recorded the fire mission as “Reg 1”, the fire mission given to the crew was “Reg 4.” This leads to the conclusion that the FCO simply mis¬-clicked on Reg 4, despite an intent to click on “Reg 1.” This would explain why some on the ground reported subsequent rounds, missing them, as the rounds moved further away as the gun was adjusted.

    Lessons Learned:
    1.) Grid coordinates, while slower to enter than presets, are safer. This is because when firing on Grid coordinates the FCO repeats the desired coordinates back to the FO, (who should know where his forces are) and also because the FCO must type them in as individual numbers, rather than simply click on a drag down menu. This limits error both in the FOs understanding of the desired target, and his input of the desired target. In this case, it is likely that had the mission been a grid coordinate targeting mission, and not a pre-set coordinate adjustment mission, the friendly fire would not have occurred.
    2.) Fire missions should always use single shots to find the target, and only once the first round has landed on target should “fire for effect” or fire missions containing more than 1 round be called in. This would have prevented additional deaths tonight. As it was, an 8 round mission with a spread was called in without spotting rounds, and several rounds were fired before the command to cease fire was reported back to the crew. We ceased immediately, but additional rounds were already on route.
    3.) The FCO, and every other member of the crew, can and MUST take an extra 15 seconds or so to double check every single step in the process. Such a double check would have saved lives tonight. Accuracy at each step in the process is more important than speed. Special care must be taken by the gunner and the FCO, as there are fewer ways for other people to check their work. (The loader’s work can be checked by the gunner, when proper communication procedure is followed.)


    To the troops on the ground, I apologize. I take full responsibility. I should have double checked the preregistered coordinate before moving on to the next screen. As a result of my failure to double check, and my mis-click of a dropdown menu, several men died. The crew, Liquid and Ops, executed the mission as it was told to them, and they are blameless.


    FCO, Firebase Hailstorm
    The question foremost in my mind is "what will bring the most tactical fun to the server?"

  • #2
    As mission commander I will also apologize for the FF incident. It was on my orders that registered targets were setup, it was on my orders that targeting rounds stopped being used later in the mission, and it was on my orders that the infantry moved forward nearby reg 4 prior to observing the rounds landing at intended target location.

    Other notes:
    As CO, things took much longer to develop than intended. While the mission is a good one, our time-to-execute was hurt due to my understaffing the gun crew and over relience on its firemissions. It is my opinion that this was a contributing factor inhibiting faster movement and execution on all sides. As the mission passed the 1.5 hr mark, command started making decisions that focused on violence of action and time, rather than calculated planning and execution. This was done largely in an effort to satisfy some of the understandable grumblings of lower ranking infantry regarding lack of trigger time.

    Mission commander should utilize a full strength gun crew if infantry will be reliant upon its firepower and support.
    Registers were setup with map markers, not 8 digit grids. Going forward, any register should be identified by both in its name and grid with readbacks executed by FO and FDC.

    Pilot must be outfitted with GPS to aid navigation. As occurred, pilot lost bearings in the early morning hours and was shotdown over enemy territory due to not having the most basic of navigation equipment. This error falls on command's allowing pilot to fly without standard equipment.
    Q: How many members of Congress does it take to change a light bulb?
    A: None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; its conditions are improving every day. Any reports of its lack of incandescence are delusional spin from the liberal media. That light bulb has served honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effort. Why do you hate freedom?!?




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