Human error is a prevalent finding in many accidents involving complex sociotechnical systems (Perrow, 1984; Reason, 1990;Woods et al., 1994; Dekker, 2005). In the case of fratricide, human error has been cited as a causal factor. Despite the advent of precision-guided munitions, ‘smart bombs’, and unprecedented navigational accuracy, friendly fire continues to be a recurrent event. Themuch-cited study by Shrader (1982) reports a fratricide rate of 2%, however recent studies have shown that fratricide rates are much higher. In fact during Desert Storm 24% ofAmerican lives were lost to ‘friendly fire’ and 15% wounded in action. Recent examinations of historical fratricide incidents have supported this observation (Gadsden and Outteridge, 2006). Human error and, in the case of air to ground incidents, pilot error dominates the findings from the accident investigations associated with fratricide.

The ANT lens that characterizes the theoretical basis of this study takes a nonanthropocentric perspective (without privileging either the technical or human) and reveals a de-centered accident aetiology, thereby providing insights into what is commonly referred to as ‘pilot error’. What is important to realize is that ANT analysis does not provide a narrative of the accident aetiology nor produce an exact rendering of the problem space but rather facilitates an interpretive examination that reveals insights into the accident aetiology. The actor network analysis of the accident aetiology dissolves the distinction between human and non-human and

argues for the realization of the social as a relational ‘network’. It is argued that within the context of this research emerges what has been termed in the literature as hybrid collectifs (Callon and Law, 1995). The results of this work are derived from case study analysis of various friendly fire incidents through the application of systems theory, complexity theory and actor network theory.