Secret Iraqi Warplane Strike
On May 17, 1987, the U.S. Navy guided-missile frigate USS Stark was on a patrol in the central Persian Gulf, about three kilometers outside the Iraq-declared war-zone off the coast of Iran.
Around 10:00 at night, local time, Stark came under attack from an apparent Iraqi Air Force fighter jet. Radars on the U.S. warship tracked the aircraft as it approached, and Capt. Glenn R. Brindel ordered his radioman to issue a warning and request the pilot to identify himself.
The Iraqi did not respond. Instead, he approached to a range of 35 kilometers and fired two Aerospatiale AM.39 Exocet anti-ship missiles.
Stark’s radars failed to detect the incoming missiles and thus the crew realized much too late that it was under fire. Underway at an altitude of only three meters and guided by their relatively simple active-radar homing heads, both missiles aimed for the part of the ship with the highest radar cross-section.
By Tom Cooper