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Sun, Jul 15, 2007

Canadian Inquiry Determines USAF Pilot Responsible For Soldier's Death

Recommends Improved Training, Technology

An inquiry into the September 4, 2006 death of a Canadian soldier in southern Afghanistan has determined the pilot of a US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt was "solely responsible" for what the board called a "preventable" error.

As ANN reported, another 30 people were injured when the unnamed pilot, flying in support of NATO ground forces operating in Panjwayi, mistook a garbage fire ignited by friendly troops for an enemy bomb blast, and strafed the area.

CanWest News Service reports the A-10A Friendly Fire Board of Inquiry report, released Friday, states the pilot "lost his situational awareness" in the incident -- the second in four years to involve a US aircraft firing on Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. In early 2002, an F-16 dropped a laser-guided bomb on Canadian troops in training.

Lt.-Gen. Michel Gauthier said the inquiry's findings confirm the importance of following correct procedures in combat -- "[b]ut given the nature of such operations," he warned, "the associated risk cannot be reduced to zero."

Ahead of its ruling, the four-member Canadian Forces inquiry board collected approximately 33 eyewitness and expert reports of the incident. It also commended the response of medical staff in the field for preventing more fatalities.

The inquiry recommended further training for ground-support missions, as well as improved technologies... which are already on the way.

In April, Lockheed Martin announced its A-10 Prime Team successfully delivered the full-function Situational Awareness Data Link (SADL) capability to the US Air Force for developmental flight testing. SADL is part of the A-10C Precision Engagement program, designed to improve pilot situational awareness by providing additional information about friendly and enemy air and ground assets.

FMI: www.af.mil, www.lockheedmartin.com

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