A British television show earlier this week aired footage of the friendly-fire incident involving an American fighter jet that killed three British soldiers, shedding new light on the circumstances surrounding the accident.
The video — shot by a British soldier — aired on Sky One on Monday in the fourth installment of a five-part series, “Ross Kemp in Afghanistan.” Prior to the show, limited details had been released about the deadly incident, which occurred on Aug. 23, 2007, in the Helmand province of southern Afghanistan.
Three British soldiers were killed when an F-15E fighter jet from RAF Lakenheath, England, dropped a 500-pound bomb on a group of soldiers from the 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment.
Ross Kemp, a former British soap opera tough guy turned reality TV star, narrates the story of how the soldiers were killed, while footage from a soldier’s head-mounted camera shows the errant ordnance striking the soldiers.
The troops were stationed in a remote section of Helmand and tasked with protecting the Kajaki dam, which provides power to millions across southern Afghanistan.
On the day of the incident, the troops were pushing out from the dam area to repel Taliban fighters. The British soldiers took up position in a mud-walled compound while they engaged in a small-arms clash with Taliban members.
During interviews with Kemp, the soldiers spoke of collaborating successfully with American, British and Dutch fighter jets in the past to deliver precise airstrikes to dislodge and eliminate the Taliban.
But a bomb from a 492nd Fighter Squadron F-15 landed off course, striking the roof of the compound where the British soldiers were holed up. When it strikes, there is initial confusion among the soldiers as to how close it really was to their position. Only upon closer inspection do they discover it landed within feet of five Royal Anglians, killing three and seriously wounding two others.
During post-incident interviews, a handful of involved soldiers — none who fully identified themselves — lashed out at the American-bashing in the media.
They mourned their comrades, regretted the deadly error but rejected the idea of blaming the fighter jet crew. Instead, they lauded the success rate they’ve tallied when calling in airstrikes and reflected on the inevitable errors of combat.
Sky One is set to run the episode several more times this week. Viewers in Britain should consult TV listings for time and channel.
The program has drawn roughly 1 million viewers a week and has received widespread praise from British media critics for its unflinching portrayal of combat in Afghanistan.