TCG Muavenet (DM 357)
|Launched:||see USS Gwin|
|Acquired:||15 August 1971|
|Fate:||crippled by Sea Sparrow missiles fired from USS Saratoga on 1 October 1992, broken up for scrap|
|Length:||376 ft 5 in (114.73 m)|
|Beam:||14 ft (4.3 m)|
|Draft:||15 ft 8 in (4.78 m)|
|Speed:||34 knots (63 km/h; 39 mph)|
TCG Muavenet (DM-357) (previously USS Gwin, transferred in 1971) was a destroyer minelayer of the Turkish Navy crippled by two Sea Sparrow missiles fired from the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga during a NATO exercise in Saros Bay, Turkey in 1992, resulting in death and injury among its crew.
Sea Sparrow incident
During the autumn of 1992, the United States, Turkey, and several other NATO members participated in "Exercise Display Determination 1992", a combined forces naval exercise under the overall command of Admiral Jeremy Michael Boorda of the United States Navy. The forces of participating nations were assigned to either of two multinational teams. Vice Admiral T. Joseph Lopez of the United States Navy led the "Brown Forces," which included Saratoga. The opposing "Green Forces," including Muavenet were under the direct control of Admiral Kroon of the Netherlands.
During the "enhanced tactical" phase of the training exercises, the Brown Forces were to attempt an amphibious landing at Saros Bay in the Aegean Sea against the resistance offered by the Green Forces. Admiral Boorda ordered the units comprising each force to actively seek and "destroy" each other. Both task force commanders had full authority to engage the simulated enemy when and where they deemed appropriate and to use all warfare assets at their disposal to achieve victory.
During an exercise planning session on 1 October 1992, the Battle Group commander, Rear Admiral Philip Dur, ordered that a simulated attack on nearby opposition forces use Sea Sparrow missiles. Sea Sparrow missiles, an anti-aircraft defensive system, was not part of existing doctrine for fighting surface targets and had not been used before, either in exercises or in live combat operations against surface targets. The order was accepted by the Operations staff with the notation that the missile system would be "simulated" (meaning the missile stations would be unmanned). Just prior to midnight on 2 October 1992, when the exercise was scheduled to begin, Rear Admiral Dur asked whether the Sea Sparrows were ready to go for the exercise. He was told that the use of the missiles was going to be simulated for this exercise. Rear Admiral Dur then directed that the use of the Sea Sparrows was not to be simulated and that the missile team was to be on station for the exercise.
Without providing prior notice of the exercise, officers on Saratoga woke the enlisted Sea Sparrow missile team and directed them to conduct the simulated attack. According to U.S. Navy, certain members of the missile firing team were not told that the exercise was a simulation drill, rather than an actual firing event.
As the drill progressed, the missile system operator used language to indicate he was preparing to fire a live missile, but due to the absence of standard terminology, the supervisors failed to appreciate the significance of the terms used and the requests made. Specifically, the Target Acquisition System operator issued the command "arm and tune", terminology the console operators understood to require arming of the missiles in preparation for actual firing. The officers supervising the drill did not realize that "arm and tune" signified a live firing and ignored two separate requests from the missile system operator to clarify whether the launch order was an exercise. As a result, shortly after midnight on the morning of 2 October, Saratoga fired two Sea Sparrow missiles at Muavenet. The first missile struck in the bridge, destroying it and the Combat Information Center. The second missile struck in the aft magazine but did not detonate. The explosion and resulting fires killed five of the ship's officers and injured 22. Nearby US Navy ships responded in aid to the Turkish ship which was now without leadership. Fire and rescue teams boarded the ship and put out the fires in the bridge and the aft magazine preventing any secondary explosions.
The sailors who actually fired the missiles were not punished, but the ship's commanding officer, Captain James M. Drager, four officers and three enlisted men received admiral's non-judicial punishment, an action which effectively ended their US Navy careers.
On 29 September 1994, some of the Turkish Navy sailors serving aboard Muavenet instituted legal action against the United States government. The action encompassed two wrongful death claims and 299 personal injury claims. On 20 February 1997, the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling against them. Their conclusion was that:
This case presents a nonjusticiable political question because it would require a court to interject itself into military decision making and foreign policy, areas the Constitution has committed to coordinate branches of government.
- CAPT James M. Drager would retire and become vice president of corporate shipbuilding for Carnival Cruise lines from 1993–2005 and "Director, Ship Construction and Fleet Management" for Maritime Management International.
- The New York Times. Navy Will Forgo Courts-Martial In Missile Firing That Killed Turks. By ERIC SCHMITT, Published: December 2, 1992.
- 20 February 1997 decision of US Court of Appeals on action instituted by Turkish Navy sailors and relatives
- This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "Ahmet Aktepe et alia., Plaintiffs-Appellants vs. USA, Defendant-Appellee".
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