The USS Vincennes incident

A case study involving Autonomous Weapon Systems


  • Viola Vincze



International Law, Law of Armed Conflicts, Autonomous Weapon Systems, case study, scenario fulfilment, responsibility


The objective of the paper is to introduce the facts of the USS Vincennes incident in 1988 and examine how the deployment and use of an Autonomous Weapon System has influenced military decision-making in the specific case. As a result of misidentification of the contact and confusion on board, Vincennes (a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser outfitted with the Aegis Combat System) fired two radar-guided missiles and shot down a civilian airliner from Iranian territorial waters (in Iranian airspace) only minutes after the airliner’s take-off. Not one from the 290 passengers and crew on board survived. Several contradictory articles have been written on the incident from legal, political and scientific vantage points and this article attempts to strip these accounts of the emotional tone and look into the facts in order to establish how personnel and machine interacted during the events that eventually led to the tragedy and how similar incidents involving AWS could be avoided.

Információk a szerzőről

Viola Vincze

Legal Advisor at the Ministry of Defence of Hungary, Legal Department, and a junior lecturer at Eötvös Loránd University, Faculty of Law, and at the National University of Public Service, Faculty of Military Science and Officer Training


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Hogyan kell idézni

Vincze, V. (2021). The USS Vincennes incident: A case study involving Autonomous Weapon Systems. Honvédségi Szemle – Hungarian Defence Review, 148(2), 92–101.