Thursday, February 24, 2011

Never Forget: Brothers to the Rescue

Fifteen years ago this week, on February 24, 1996, two small, unarmed, civilian Cessna planes, belonging to the organization Brothers to the Rescue were blown out of the sky by missiles launched by a Cuban Mig-29 over international waters.  Pilots Mario M. de la PeM-qa and Carlos A. Costa, both U. S. citizens, and spotters Armando Alejandre, Jr., a U.S. citizen and ex-marine, and Pablo Morales, a legal resident of the United States were killed.

The event gave rise to an extensive federal legal dispute that resulted in a liability finding against the government of Cuba under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976.  Excerpts from radio communications between the Mig-29 and Havana Military Control detail what transpired:

MiG-29:                     OK, the target is in sight; the target is in sight.  It’s a small aircraft.  Copied, small aircraft in sight.
MiG-29:                      OK, we have it in sight, we have it in sight.
MiG-29:                      The target is in sight.
Military Control:        Go ahead.
MiG-29:                      The target is in sight.
Military Control:        Aircraft in sight.
MiG-29:                      Come again?
MiG-29:                      It’s a small aircraft, a small aircraft.
MiG-29:                      It’s white, white.
Military Control:        Color and registration of the aircraft?
Military Control:        Buddy.
MiG-29:                      Listen, the registration also?
Military Control:        What kind and colour?
MiG-29:                      It’s white and blue.
MiG-29:                      White and blue, at a low altitude, a small aircraft.
MiG-29:                      Give me some instructions.
MiG-29:                      Instructions!
MiG-29:                      Listen, authorize me ...
MiG-29:                      If we give it a pass, it will complicate things.  We are going to give it a pass. Because some vessels are approaching there, I am going to give it a pass.
MiG-29                       Talk, talk.
MiG-29:                      I have it in lock-on, I have it in lock-on.
MiG-29:                      We have it in lock-on.  Give us authorization.
MiG-29:                      It is a Cessna 337.  That one.  Give us authorization, damn it!
Military Control:        Fire.
MiG-29:                      Give us authorization, damn it, we have it.
Military Control:        Authorized to destroy.
MiG-29:                      I’m going to pass it.
Military Control:        Authorized to destroy.
MiG-29:                      We already copied.  We already copied.
Military Control:        Authorized to destroy.
MiG-29:                     Understood, already received.  Already received.  Leave us alone for now.
Military Control:        Don’t lose it.
MiG-29:                      First launch.
MiG-29:                      We hit him!  Damn.  We hit him!  We hit him!  We retired him!
MiG-29:                      Wait to see where it fell.
MiG-29:                      Come on in, come on in!  Damn, we hit.  F-----s!
MiG-29:                      Mark the place where we took it out.
MiG-29:                      We are over it.  This one won’t mess around anymore.
Military Control:        Congratulations to the two of you.
MiG-29:                      Mark the spot.  * * *
MiG-29:                      We’re climbing and returning home.
Military Control:        Stand by there circling above.
MiG-29:                      Over the target?
Military Control:        Correct.
MiG-29:                      S-t, we did tell you, Buddy.
Military Control:        Correct, the target is marked.
MiG-29:                      Go ahead.
Military Control:      OK, climb to 3200, 4000 meters above the destroyed target and maintain economical speed.
MiG-29:                      Go ahead.
Military Control:        I need you to stand by ... there.  What heading did the launch have?
MiG-29:                      I have another aircraft in sight.
MiG-29:                      We have another aircraft.
Military Control:        Follow it.
MiG-29:                      Don’t lose the other small aircraft.
MiG-29:                     We have another aircraft in sight.  It’s in the area where (the first aircraft fell.  It’s in the area where it fell.
MiG-29:                      We have the aircraft.
Military Control:        Stand by.
MiG-29:                      Comrade, it’s in the area of the event.
MiG-29:                      Did you copy?
MiG-29:                      OK, this aircraft is headed 90 degrees now.
MiG-29:                      It’s in the area of the event, where the target fell.  They’re going to have to authorize us.
MiG-29:                      Hey, the SAR isn’t needed.  Nothing remains, nothing.
Military Control:        Correct, keep following the aircraft.  You’re going to stay above it.
MiG-29:                      We’re above it.
Military Control:        Correct …
MiG-29:                      For what?
MiG-29:                      Is the other authorized?
Military Control:        Correct.
MiG-29:                      Great.  Let’s go Alberto.
MiG-29:                      Understood; we are now going to destroy it.
Military Control:        Do you still have it in sight?
MiG-29:                      We have it, we have it, we’re working.  Let us work.
MiG-29:                      The other is destroyed; the other is destroyed.  Fatherland or death, s—t! The other is down also.

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