Deficient radar equipment aboard the Stark, and not the ship's crew, was chiefly responsible for the frigate's failure to defend itself against an Iraqi missile attack last May, the ship's captain said in his first extensive comment on the incident.
Capt. Glenn R. Brindel, relieved of command in the wake of the May 17 Exocet missile attack in the Persian Gulf that killed 37 crewmen and wounded 21, laid out his charges in a letter published in the independent weekly newspapers Navy Times and Defense News.
Brindel acknowledged "deficiencies in the watch" aboard the ship, but wrote, "Their actions or inactions . . . are not primary causes for Stark's failure to defend against the . . . attack.
"Unfortunately, the ship's radars and electronics did not function as advertised."
His assertion directly contradicts the official Navy findings of a board of inquiry, released in a censored version Oct. 15.
The board of inquiry, chaired by Rear Adm. Grant A. Sharp, harshly criticized Brindel and some of his top officers for failing to defend the Stark from two Exocet missiles fired by an Iraqi jet.
Brindel, the report concluded, "failed to provide combat-oriented leadership, allowing Stark's anti-air warfare readiness to disintegrate to the point that his Combat Information Center team was unable to defend the ship."
The inquiry board recommended courts-martial for Brindel and his tactical action officer, Lt. Basil E. Moncrief, but that recommendation was set aside after the two men accepted responsibility for the incident.
Both were reprimanded, and Moncrief resigned. Brindel will soon retire at the lower rank of commander.