On July 3, 1988, at the end of the Iran–Iraq War, an Iran Air Airbus A300B2-203 flying from Bandar Abbas, Iran to Dubai, United Arab Emirates was shot down by U.S. missiles fired by the United States Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes. The aircraft was flying in Iranian airspace over Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf on its usual flight path. All 290 people on board, including 66 children and 16 crew, were killed.
The United States government initially claimed that the aircraft had been mistaken for an Iranian F-14 fighter jet. However, later investigations revealed that the aircraft was clearly identified as a civilian airliner. The United States government apologized for the incident, but refused to pay compensation to the families of the victims.
The shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 was a major diplomatic incident and a major tragedy. It remains a source of anger and resentment in Iran.
Ranking seventh among the deadliest disasters in aviation history, the incident retains the highest death toll of any aviation incident in the Indian Ocean and the highest death toll of any incident involving an Airbus A300 anywhere in the world.
The Vincennes had entered Iranian territorial waters after one of its helicopters drew warning fire from Iranian speedboats operating within Iranian territorial limits.