Friday, May 20, 2005


How the RAF Hercules C130 was shot down in Iraq

I'm reluctant to write about this. The story is based on an anonymous source (or sources) who has viewed a military report that has not yet been released, and the report itself is only an interim report. If I get this wrong and rioting breaks out, I'll have to retract this post, and then my credibility, such as it is, will be in shambles. So with those caveats, which I recommend to all journalists everywhere...

On January 30, a Royal Air Force Hercules C130, a transport plane, went down in Iraq causing the greatest loss to British forces in any one incident. Speculation surged for a few days as to the cause, then was forgotten.

On Tuesday Thomas Harding of the Telegraph wrote that a cause has been determined—

An interim Ministry of Defence report has ruled out almost everything apart from enemy fire and it was suggested that a missile or rocket-propelled grenade could have brought down the aircraft.

But an official told The Daily Telegraph yesterday that the report concluded that the Hercules had been shot down by anti-aircraft artillery, as it flew at a low altitude, possibly 150ft.

"It was shredded by a multi-barrelled 20mm canon," the official said. "They have worked out that's what caused the crash."

The gun is believed to have been a 1960s twin-barrel Zu-23, made in China or the Soviet Union, left over from the Saddam Hussein regime.

It has an effective range of 2,000 yards and can be mounted on a lorry or set on wheels.

It is not known why the Hercules, which was equipped with sophisticated defensive measures, was flying at low altitude for the 40-minute trip.

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