UK defence secretary Geoff Hoon has promised an inquiry into "blue-on-blue" or "friendly fire" deaths following the loss of five UK servicemen during the Iraq war.

One of the incidents, in which US Air Force Fairchild A-10A Thunderbolts attacked a column of British Army armed vehicles, killing one serviceman and injuring four, mirrored a similar incident in the 1991 Gulf War that killed nine and injured 11. In another incident during this war, two were killed when their Challenger 2 main battle tank was attacked by another Challenger, while a Panavia Tornado GR4 crew were killed when the aircraft was shot down by a US Patriot missile.

Meanwhile, the USA is investigating an attack by a Boeing F-15E Eagle on US Army artillery, which left one dead and "several" missing and injured.

Last week, three Scimitar light armoured vehicles of The Blues and Royals and two other vehicles around 40km (25 miles) north of Basra were attacked by two A-10s, leaving two burning. Survivors say the A-10s completed two passes despite the tanks carrying the coalition markings and infrared identification devices. One vehicle had a Union Jack painted on the rear, said one of the survivors.

Hoon told parliament last week: "A great deal of effort has been made to reduce risks, but as we have tragically seen from recent incidents, such accidents will sadly occur...That is notwithstanding the use of additional equipment and the latest technology. Continuing efforts will be made to understand the nature of the accidents and to find, if possible, solutions to their causes."

The Ministry of Defence says it has acquired new equipment to ensure its combat identification matches and is compatible with US systems. It adds that it is "not a single system or piece of equipment", but also includes "tactics and procedures backed by technology".

Source: Flight International