The German navy’s frigate FGS Hessen was responsible for accidentally targeting a fishing vessel during Exercise Good Hope last month.
The German embassy said that the captain of the Hessen used practice ammunition rather than live ammunition when his frigate accidentally targeted a ski boat whilst carrying out a live fire exercise on 25 March in southern Cape waters.
Commercial fisherman and skipper Anthony Day, with nine crew members, launched from Struisbaai harbour at about 02h30 in his 28-foot boat, the Arctic. They intended heading to Twelve Mile Bank, south-southwest of Struisbaai, to fish for Geelbeck.
Day said that while he was waiting for his crew before launching, a charter boat operator arrived, towing the black-painted boat with a radar reflector. Day spoke to them and was informed that the boat was going to be used as a target at the Denel Overberg Test Range, approximately 20 nautical miles to the northeast.
Day launched his boat whilst the target boat was still tied up alongside the quay. He headed in a south-south-westerly direction opposite to that of the Denel test range. In the early hours of the morning, the Hessen mistakenly identified the fishing vessel as the 14 foot radio controlled ‘Hammerhead’ boat that was to be used for target practice as both the target and the ski boat had very similar profiles.
The German embassy said five rounds were fired at the boat, after being mistakenly identified by the Hessen’s commander and firing supervisor. Day said the shells landed 20 metres from his boat. After being shot at, Day immediately put on his bright deck lights so that the people on the boat could be seen, and headed west at full speed.
The German military said South Africa was responsible for closing off the area for training, according to Netwerk24.
At the time of the incident, German and South African forces were conducting live fire exercises off the coast of the Overberg Test Range, a declared live firing area, as part of Exercise Good Hope VI. Both tactical phases and missile firing were done using RIM-7 Sea Sparrow short range anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons and RIM-116 rolling airframe missiles as well as Umkhonto infrared homing missiles, 76 mm guns and smaller weapons.
The German frigates Karlsruhe and Hessen together with the support ship Berlin were involved in the tactical exercise, with Hessen tasked with shooting the target vessel.