The Red Cross Ambulance Incident Missile Damage Mail Page

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This page features a selection of responses emailed by visitors to The Red Cross Ambulance Incident page regarding structural damage to the ambulance purportedly caused by a missile or other ordnance.
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From: Erik C.

I'm a former USN commissioned officer, who served as both a CIC officer and Operations Officer from 1986 to 1991, with a little experience in missile/rocket technology.

One of two things happens when either a missile or rocket strikes a target. It either explodes, usually causing some form of catastrophic damage (just ask Hamas), or it doesn't, leaving the residual fuel in the weapon to burn off, causing some form of catastrophic damage. For examples, see the HMS Sheffield which, during the Falklands war, was hit and sunk by an Argentinean Exocet missile. It failed to explode, but the resulting fire caused the ship to burn to the waterline, and sink. In addition, the USS Stark, hit by two Iraqi Exocets. The first failed to explode, and caused more damage than the second which did.

From: Chris V.

Something struck me as odd from the first time I saw the pictures of the ambulance. I cannot ever recall seeing a missile from an aircraft hitting a target from a perfect vertical angle, as the missile would have had to have done in order to puncture the ambulance right smack in the middle of the cross. Unless the Israeli pilot did a nose dive straight down at the ambulance before firing his missile. Last time I checked, that's not how they teach it in military flight school. I hadn't seen that angle mentioned anywhere so I thought I'd share.

From: Denis K.

Excellent dissecting of the ambulance ruse, but one other point....

It's been 36 years since I served in the Army as an air defense missile crewman, but if you or any other blogger post this query asking any current expert military personnel to comment, and/or some familiar with IDF ordnance, I'm virtually certain what answer you would get......

What the heck kind of air to surface rocket/missile fired from a chopper would leave a hole with the apparent diameter of the one on that ambulance????????? The sucker would be huge, chopper-wise, and pretty large even for a jet, and decidedly overkill for taking out a motor vehicle!

That hole, judging by the shot of the man's head poking through, has to be in the range of 12" (300mm) diameter or larger! Quick Googling:

The Hellfire air to surface missile variants (used on Cobras and Apaches) are 7" diameter!

In my experience, the length of a rocket/missile was always a minimum of eight times the diameter. In other words, if that was a missile that hit that ambulance, the nose was through the floor and on the ground while the fins hadn't even touched the vehicle yet!

Truly big ordnance to use on a motor vehicle!

A strafing attack with machine-gun bullets would have left round holes, with a ring of freshly-removed paint at the border of each. It would not have dented in the top of the ambulance. Similarly, if there has been a real missile hit, the top would have been blown outwards, not inwards, and, of course, everyone inside would have been instantly killed and incinerated. Those missiles are hot.

Another point - if the alleged "missile" came in downwards through the roof, the floor would have been damaged. There is no evidence of damage to the floor. I also imagine - but better ask an expert - that the impact of a downward-travelling missile would have burst the tyres, which are undamaged.

The more you look at this the more obviously it seems lying nonsense. I am not Jewish or Israeli so I have no propaganda axe to grind here.

-- Hal C.

I have been reading extensively on this topic and it occurred to me that one theory on the cause of damage is missing: Stray Katyushas. Recently, a Hezbollah spokesman bragged of the 8,000 missiles launched at Israel and was immediately met with the response that less than 4,000 landed in Israel. Note, he said "launched." We are all well aware that the Katyusha is unguided and unreliable. It would not be shocking if half landed in Lebanon. Moreover, many were reported to be fired from the vicinity of Tyre.

I'm no expert on munitions, but I saw Michael Totten's pictures of the damage Katyusha's did in Northern Israel. The generally lacked the ability to severely damage structures, but the ball bearings would leave pock marks throughout the area. I looked at a few specs on Katyushas and it is not inconceivable to me that a Katyusha richoted of the ambulance and exploded, raining down heat on the outside of the ambulance and showering it with ball bearings. It may even have struck the vent, driving it into or off the vehicle. It very well could have done minimal damage inside the vehicle and much of the damage outside. Moreover, since Katyusha's often launched from a multiple platform, several could have landed in the area. Furthermore, they wouldn't be difficult to confuse with a missile, though they are much smaller.

Again, this is speculation, but I had seen it put forward and wondered why. I am certain others with greater expertise could rule this out if it were off base and would appreciate such input. From a propaganda standpoint, it makes substantial sense, particularly if a hit had occured early in the campaign and they were looking for a way to pass the damage off on the Israelis.

-- Paul

From: D.T.

I'm a bit of a weapons buff and would offer the following:

1. As you note, a missile does a HELL of a lot more damage than that. What would be the sense of having a military missile that just knocks a hole in sheet metal?

2. Strafing run with standard rifle-caliber machineguns -- naw, those runs either penetrate (leaving holes that are round or roughly oval, with the side near the shooter being sharp and the one away more rounded) or at shallow angles bounces off, leaving an oval indentation. Neither is the case here.

2. Strafing run with something more potent, say 20 mm ... A 20mm on impact might blow a hole that size (altho your discovery of the roof vents seems 100% on), BUT it'd certainly have set the ambulance afire. The standard load is high explosive incendiary, which (due to inclusion of powdered aluminum in the explosive) creates a very nice fireball. You wouldn't have the roof upholstery hanging down, unignited. An armour-piercing round wouldn't do that, but it also would just punch a tiny hole, under an inch in size.

3. I dunno -- I think you are dead on about the ventilator, but all the marks around it are wierd. And rusty, clearly old. They do look something like what'd I'd expect from a small explosive round, say 20mm, detonating at some distance, say 10-15 feet. Most of the small ones don't make it thru the sheet metal. Most of the big ones are rusty and elongated. Possibly two different events? Notice that some of the small ones appear OVER the rusted areas and chip the rust away. The fact that the roof is pushed downard suggests that whatever it was did not involve an interior detonation, even a small one.

4. Strange that there are some fairly big penetrations, but they appear at a distance from the supposed missile hole, and might be consistent with a detonation at some distance.

5. A Scientific Wild Assed Guess: ambulance has had its ventilator removed and suffered some old damage (rusty) for lord knows what reason, that left it with cuts into the roof. Pushed in roof and jagged cuts -- maybe it had a roll-over? At some later point, wanting something fancier to show, someone sets off a small explosive device (hand grenade? I dunno) at a short distance from it, to get more holes. Just a guess.

6. Straining my mind to play devil's advocate ... say the ambulance was fired on, it blew the ventilator off, and the media misunderstood the hole as that of a missle? But when why are so many of the smaller holes rusted? A missile bursting anywhere nearby would have done far more damage. A 20mm bursting nearby might match, but 20mms are too small for proximity fuses (fuses that have tiny radar sets to detonate them at a distance from the target, usually meaning several feet off round so fragmentatin spreads better). I've never heard of anyone scaling proximity fuses below the 40-57mm range. Without them, a round goes off when it hits something.

From: Valachus

Most of the attention has been centered on the large hole and the dissapearance of the large res photo from the ICRC site. However, I think that that particular photo is somewhat misleading, since it doesn't show the entire roof of the ambulance. Yet, I saw this picture you linked to that has a pan photo of the roof. And there is something that is quite dubious: a circular hole pattern on the rear right corner of the ambulance. Also next to it, a bit to the left in the photo, a series of four holes in an relative straight line that look amazingly similar to an automatic rifle bullet pattern. The diameter seems the same, so... the question arises: could the circular pattern be a pellet gunshot mark from close distance? And could the series of four holes in a straight line (there's also a fifth similar diameter hole, a bit missaligned with the others) be a grouped shots series from an automatic rifle?

Furthermore, I think that the roof was subject to not one, but to two small explosions of similar detonating power but with different fragmentation - maybe two types of hand grenades placed on the roof. The first one, with large fragmentation marks, months or even years prior to the second one, with the pepper fragmentation effect. The difference results from the fact that what I think was the first explosion blew the paint away then the unpainted surface rusted, and after a long time there was the second explosion, from roughly the same spot, with much smaller fragments.

P.S. -- Having looked again and again at the hi-res ICRC photo I changed my mind about the possibility of two explosions, there must have been only one from a small explosive device -- maybe a concussion grenade.