|Date||3 July 1988|
|Summary||Shot down by a missile fired from USS Vincennes; reason for shootdown disputed|
|Site||Strait of Hormuz, near Qeshm Island, Iran |
|Aircraft type||Airbus A300B2-203|
|IATA flight No.||IR655|
|ICAO flight No.||IRA655|
|Call sign||IRANAIR 655|
|Flight origin||Mehrabad International Airport|
|Stopover||Bandar Abbas International Airport|
Bandar Abbas, Iran
|Destination||Dubai International Airport|
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Iran Air Flight 655 was a scheduled passenger flight from Tehran to Dubai via Bandar Abbas that was shot down on 3 July 1988 by two SM-2MR surface-to-air missiles fired by the USS Vincennes, a guided-missile cruiser of the United States Navy. The aircraft, an Airbus A300, was destroyed and all 290 people on board were killed. The jet was hit while flying over Iran's territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, along the flight's usual route, shortly after departing Bandar Abbas International Airport, the flight's stopover location. The attack occurred during the Iran–Iraq War, which had been continuing for nearly eight years. Vincennes had entered Iranian territory after one of its helicopters drew warning fire from Iranian speedboats operating within Iranian territorial limits.
The reason for the downing has been disputed between the governments of the two countries. According to the U.S., the Vincennes crew had incorrectly identified the Airbus as an attacking F-14 Tomcat, a U.S.-made jet fighter that had been part of the Iranian Air Force inventory since the 1970s. While the F-14s had been supplied to Iran in an air-to-air configuration, the Vincennes crew had been briefed that the Iranian F-14s were equipped with air-to-ground ordnance. The US military asserts that the Vincennes had made ten attempts to contact the aircraft both on military and on civilian frequencies, but had received no response. According to Iran, the cruiser negligently shot down the aircraft, which was transmitting IFF squawks in Mode III, a signal that identified it as a civilian aircraft, and not Mode II as used by Iranian military aircraft. The event generated a great deal of criticism of the United States. Some analysts blamed the captain of Vincennes, William C. Rogers III, for overly aggressive behavior in a tense and dangerous environment. In the days immediately following the incident, President Ronald Reagan issued a written diplomatic note to the Iranian government, expressing deep regret. However, the U.S. continued to insist that Vincennes was acting in "self-defense".
In 1996, during the Clinton Administration, the governments of the U.S. and Iran reached a settlement at the International Court of Justice which included the statement "... the United States recognized the aerial incident of 3 July 1988 as a terrible human tragedy and expressed deep regret over the loss of lives caused by the incident ..." When former President Reagan was directly asked if he considered the statement an apology, he replied, "Yes." As part of the settlement, even though the U.S. government did not admit legal liability or formally apologize to Iran, it agreed to pay US$61.8 million on an ex gratia basis in compensation to the families of the Iranian victims. The shootdown was the deadliest aviation disaster involving an Airbus A300, as well as the deadliest aviation disaster in 1988. It was also the deadliest airliner shootdown incident until 2014, when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine.
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