A Navy commander, engaging in unusually frank public criticism, said U.S. missile cruiser Vincennes that shot down an Iranian airliner killing 290 people had been given the derogatory nickname "Robo Cruiser" for its aggressive behavior.
Cmdr. David Carlson of the frigate Sides, which was in the Persian Gulf at the time of the July 3, 1988, downing, wrote in the September issue of the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings magazine that the aggressiveness of the Vincennes, commanded by Capt. Will Rogers III, was well known among naval officers in the area.
"Having watched the performance of the Vincennes for a month before the incident, my impression was clearly that an atmosphere of restraint was not her long suit," Carlson wrote. "Her actions appeared to be consistently aggressive and had become a topic of wardroom conversation."
" 'Robo Cruiser' was the unamusing nickname that someone jokingly came up with for her and it stuck," Carlson said. "My guess was that the crew of the Vincennes felt a need to prove the viability of Aegis (the sophisticated anti-aircraft system on the cruiser) in the Persian Gulf, and that they hankered for the opportunity to show their stuff."
Carlson wrote that the Vincennes started a sea battle with Iranian gunboats earlier in the day July 3 in response to what may have been nothing more than warning shots from the boats feeling threatened by the cruiser's helicopter.
When the Iranian airliner came along later, the crew of the Vincennes misidentified the plane as an Iranian F-14 fighter jet and shot it down.