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The Facts

  Studies estimate:
  • As much as 24 percent of U.S. troops around 250,000 have been killed or wounded by fellow American soldiers in major 20th century conflicts.

  • Between 5 and 10 percent of the 58,000 Americans who perished in the Vietnam Conflict were killed by their own side.

  • Of the eight Bradley tanks and tank crews that were lost in the Gulf War, friendly fire destroyed seven.
-- Statistics from
U.S. Army War College Journal

Fratricide: One that murders or kills his or her own brother or sister or an individual (as a countryman) having a relationship like that of a brother or sister.
-- Merriam Webster Dictionary

One axiom has always held true in armed combat: "Friendly fire isn't friendly."

Army Maj. Bill McKean, a cavalry officer who is the operational manager of the Joint Combat Identification Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration, puts it best: "The problem is our weapons can kill at a greater range than we can identify a target as friend or foe. Yet if you wait until you're close enough to be sure you are firing at an enemy, you've lost your advantage."

Since a series of fratricides during the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War where 35 of the 148 U.S. combat deaths came from friendly fire, despite the use of "smart" bombs that spurred the Pentagon to come up with technological methods to prevent such deadly accidents. Since then, a variety of high-tech devices and training methods have been developed to help identify intended targets as friend or foe.

Technology provides an important defense against friendly fire incidents. Robust IFF systems, coupled with battlefield awareness electronics, are critical components in reducing friendly fire.

Technology is one half of the solution to friendly fire; training is the other. Read about the various training methods now in use and under discussion.

From the Civil War to the current conflict in Afghanistan, friendly fire has claimed the lives of many servicemembers. Read articles on friendly fire incidents here.



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