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
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.