Was a U.S. C-130 mistakenly shot down in Chad in 1988?

Nov 05 2012 - 13 Comments

Based on the majority of the reports on the subject currently available, only one aircraft was shot down in the close encounters between the French and the Libyan Air Force since the beginning of Opération Épervier (the ongoing military presence of France in Chad to contain a Libyan invasion): a Libyan Tu-22.

However, the “Blinder” destroyed over N’Djamena on Sept. 7, 1987, the only confirmed shot down, might not have been the only one to be downed in Chad by France in the mid ’80s. Along with another Libyan plane, a U.S. C-130 could have fallen as a consequence of French anti-aircraft fire, according to a French reader of The Aviationist who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“There were at least  three aircraft shot down [in Chad], two Tu-22s and one C-130,” he explained in an email.

On Feb. 17, 1986, after the Ouadi-Doum air raid (the first French strike in Chad against the airbase used by the Libyan planes to attack the Chadian capital town), a Libyan Arab Republic Air Force Tu-22 attempted to bomb N’Djamena. “Official reports said the Blinder was too high to be hit by Crotale or twin-tube and crashed on the return leg because of a technical fault. But according to some sources the bomber was flying at very low level and it was hit by ground air defense battery fire defending N’Djamena airport, and crashed in northern Chad,” he says.

In fact, some reports of that period already mentioned the possibility that the aircraft did not crash because of failure but as a consequence of French fire.

Then, as already said, “on Sept. 7, 1987, a flight of two Mirage F1C on combat air patrol, attempted to intercept a LARAF Tu-22. The leading plane fired a Matra Super 530 missile at the Blinder but  missed it. Then, one French Army Air Defense MIM-23 Hawk missile shot it down.”

While the downing of an additional Tu-22 is nothing new, what is really new (at least to me) is the alleged “blue on blue” episode that brought down a U.S. C-130.

“From Jul. 7 to 9, 1988, there was a meeting between Chadians and Libyans in Libreville, Gabon. The tension was high in Chad (French feared an attack by the Libyan forces). On the evening of July 7, a plane was spotted in the direction of Faya Largeau [airport used by the French Air Force planes in northern Chad]. Identification procedure was launched. The aircraft got closer, alarm given, everyone suited up NBC clothes. Then, three Stinger missiles were fired. One hit his target, that turned to be a U.S. C-130. The body of an American pilot was extracted and then repatriated to the U.S. embassy…this event is still classified.”

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

I’ve tried to look for more information about this friendly fire mishap, but haven’t found anything on the net. Whilst I can believe U.S. planes operated in the region in that period, what’s weird is that, according to the reader, the American Hercules was shot down by Stingers missiles fired by a French army unit, even if France is not among the FIM-92 operators. Furthermore, there’s no trace of any mishap around Faya Largeau in that period that could back the theory of a U.S. (special ops?) plane brought down by mistake.

Asked to provide more details, the reader replied that the story comes from personal accounts. Hence it’s impossible to fact check it and it may just be another conspiracy theory. However, I can’t but notice that this reader is a reliable source.

Has anyone ever heard this story?

“Contrary to what has been told, there were also skirmishes between French Mirage F1 and Libyan planes. On Jun. 7, 1987, a Mirage F1 achieved a warning shot against an IL-76 that approached too near Faya Largeau during the commemoration of liberation of the city,” the French source explains.

“According to personal knowledgeable sources, there was also a shot from Mirage F1 on Su-20/22 during this period, but not kills […] Many of these reports are still classified.”

Image credit: French MoD

 

  • http://aboudjaffar.blog.lemonde.fr/ Abou Djaffar

    Never heard a single word about this C-130. Regarding the use of Stingers by French troops, it seems to be very hard to believe. Epervier’s troops were using Crotale and Hawk, and guns.

    Officially, there was no fight between French and Libyan jets, but I have read, long time ago, some very interesting reports about some Su-17s lost in combat in North Chad.

  • syntaxerror9

    What is the purpose of such article?
    No evience of a freindly kill from French forces!
    No Stinger in French Air Force arsenal!
    French bashing once again?

    • syntaxerror9

      “evidence” *

    • http://theaviationist.com/ David Cenciotti

      The purpose of this article is just to let readers know another theory brought to my attention by a French reader. I’ve already said why it most probably is an urban legend but maybe some reader can add a bit to at least explain where such theory was born.

  • Steve

    Chad received Stingers in 1987. It’s entirely possible that French forces were using these, and not their own missiles.

  • syntaxerror9

    I was in the French Air Force during that period, never heard of any freindly kill.
    One Tu-22 has been shot down very close to N’Djamena by a Hawk.(Tu-22 bombs bay was already open!)
    But no SUPER 530 fired by Mirage F1 because of the Tu-22 jamming(confusion mod).

    • http://theaviationist.com/ David Cenciotti

      Thank you for your memories.
      I too believe that it may be a sort-of urban legend, but who knows?

      • syntaxerror9

        I’ve called some freinds.
        The urban legend says: One C-130 from US special forces would have been shot done by someone.
        As we know, special forces do not have flight plan, so, a Stinger fired by mistake in the desert by Chad forces is not science fiction too…

  • Steve

    The idea put forth by some others I’ve been discussing this with is that it was possibly on a CIA mission running weapons. That would explain why it has been kept so quiet.

  • Fred

    I think if this really happened, Syntaxerror version would be the most plausible..It would be interesting to know of the outcome of the pieces of plane and the other bodies involved.

  • Denis

    Maybe this aircraft was not from US. It might be a Libyan C-130 with a US mercenary pilot on board …

  • Jag

    If this story is proven, it would not be the first time that an aircraft used to perform the spreading is shot down by mistake. December 8, 1988, two DC-7 of the company T & G Aviation and chartered by USAID, are victims of SAM fire from the Polisario (who was mistaken for Moroccan C-130) in the Western Sahara. One of them was shot, the five crew members were killed, the second, damaged, managed to reach Sidi Ifni to Morocco. (Source: http://www.nytimes.com/1988/12/10/world/downed-pilot-knew-of-danger-in-sahara.html)

    The C-130 is a military aircraft, so it is forbidden to export to a foreign country without the prior approval of the State Department, the Department of Defense, the FAA and the CIA. The CIA is the only government agency with enough clout to obtain permits all entities above.

    On the loss of a military aircraft, the U.S. State Department demands accountability, then, there would be traces of the loss of the C-130 in 1988, unless the C-130 was no longer party of the inventories of the U.S. military and became a “civilian”.

    In the 80s, aircraft fire fighting the U.S. Forest Service began to be worn. Two persons condemned for fraud in 1997, managed to get old C-130A of the U.S. military to renew the fleet dated. In fact, the U.S. Forest Service has never seen one of these planes. They were sold to private companies, including T & G Aviation to be equipped spreading equipment. T & G Aviation is suspected of having relations with the CIA for operations “special”. Two of its planes were seen in Kuwait in 1991. (Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Forest_Service_airtanker_scandal and http://www.apfn.net/dcia/evergree.html). T & G Aviation lost a C-130 in France in 2000 as he struggled against fire …

  • Denis

    It seems that the C-130 was not shot down, but damaged. Apparently, it was a civilian aircraft that went in a prohibited area and achieved spreading, act that was considered hostile because the Libyan used chemical weapons at that time against chadian.

    http://alliancegeostrategique.org/2013/09/16/de-manta-a-epervier-operations-aeriennes-au-dessus-du-tchad-1983-1988/

    There is also information on other aircraft shot down.