Chair Force Engineer

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Folded Wings & Propaganda Peddlers

The Islamic State in Iraq claims that it will soon release a video regarding the death of Major Troy Gilbert, an F-16 pilot who perished in November 2006 while strafing enemy forces in Fallujah, Iraq. This would be the second video regarding the incident, as one was released by the Iraqis shortly after the crash occurred.

When I fist started reading about the incident, things didn’t add up in my mind. The Air Force did not make a declaration of death until performing DNA tests on remains found at the site of the crash. However, there were media reports that the first video ‘showed graphic images of the dead pilot’s body.’ This raised the possibility that Maj Gilbert had attempted to eject, and that the Iraqis had brutalized and desecrated his remains.

I wanted to investigate further, so I found the original video on the internet. Clearly identifiable pieces of aircraft wreckage are shown, including the aircraft’s vertical stabilizer and canopy (the forward canopy glass & frame assembly, which is blown free during an F-16 ejection.) The last shot purports to show the pilot, but I had a big problem with it: it looks too fake. The parachute is deployed and mangled, and the “pilot” has no visible arms or legs. No blood is discernable in the video.

Hopefully the Air Force accident investigation will find good answers to all of the questions posed by this disturbing incident. My theory, based on the video and the Air Force press releases (which I frankly shouldn’t trust anymore, based on personal experience) is that Major Gilbert’s aircraft struck the ground while strafing the enemy at low altitude with his 20mm cannon. The aircraft may have been hit with a lucky shot by small arms, which disabled the aircraft in some way. Major Gilbert probably made an attempt to escape at the last moment, or the canopy pyrotechnics may have fired when the aircraft impacted. I don’t believe that the Iraqis found any discernable human remains, so they faked a body for propaganda purposes. We live in a world where a militant group's propagandist can be referred to as an "Iraqi journalist” by Associated Press, and we should not be surprised with the contents of the video.

By investigating the incident, we will hopefully find better tactics for protecting our pilots, and possibly dish out some payback against these Iraqi assholes who would have committed an unspeakable act like desecrating a body. Above all, the investigation should bring some peace to Major Gilbert’s family and friends. Godspeed to a great airman who was respected by all who knew him.