The U.S.S. Vincennes is infamous as the ship which mistakenly shot down an Iranian Airbus jetliner in 1988, lending (along with the Alitalia shoot down) credibility to the suggestion that a similar accident might have occurred to TWA Flight 800.
The claim has been made that the Iranian Airbus was shot down "on purpose"; i.e. that it wasn't really an accident. Personally, I can't imagine the killing of a passenger jet as being anything but a royal screwup.
Recently, however, a chance meeting with a crewman from the U.S.S. Vincennes (on a 747 ironically enough) added some new facts to the puzzle.
It seems that the Aegis system had passed only two tests prior to being sent into combat in the Mideast. In the first test, the $500 million Aegis radar and weapons control system was set up near Exit 4 of the New Jersey Turnpike where it merely watched the local general aviation traffic. It's first "active" test involved the shooting down of 10 out of 11 drones, all on courses and altitudes known in advance to the system operators.
Deployed in the Persian Gulf in 1988, The Aegis radar on the U.S.S. Vincennes locked onto an Airbus 300, but mis-identified it as the much smaller F-14. The Aegis also reported that the target was descending even though the airbus was, in fact, climbing, and finally, the Aegis erred on the altitude by 4000 feet. The combination of all these errors presented by the Aegis system convinced the Captain that his ship was under attack, and the Airbus was shot down.
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