Pilot Error Caused Friendly Fire:

A combined Canadian and US Air Force investigation board reviewing the strafing incident that resulted in the death of Canadian Pvt. Mark A. Graham and injury to 36 other Canadian soldiers on Sept. 4, 2006, in Afghanistan, has determined that a USAF A-10 pilot “misidentified a friendly position while engaged in close air support operations,” according to the board summary provided by US Central Command Air Forces. The A-10 and the Canadian forces were engaged in NATO’s Operation Medusa at the time. A separate Board of Inquiry conducted by Canadian Expeditionary Force Command, with assistance from a USAF A-10 pilot advisor, came to the same conclusion. The BOI, which has placed much of its report and related statements online, says in its executive summary that the incident “was preventable.” The incident pilot “lost his situational awareness. He mistook a garbage fire at the Canadian location for his target without verifying the target through his targeting pod and heads-up display.” The BOI noted that the garbage fire lit by the Canadian forces was a “contributing factor,” as was the changing light conditions as night transitioned to day. BOI head and CEFCOM Lt. Gen. Michel Gauthier, in a separate statement, commented that although the recommended improvements to planning and coordination of air support operations would help, “the associated risk cannot be reduced to zero.” He also noted, “Close air support is credited with saving numerous lives in Afghanistan, including the lives of Canadian soldiers, and has been a critical success factor in many combat engagements.”