Translate by Mark Carlisle.


(Translator comments are in italics.)

I know of altogether five versions about how the incident transpired.

According to sources directly from the 2 nd Sq. of the 5 th Fighter Regiment, 1LT Piskatý,

after being vectored into the area, first established visual contact with the (future) violator

while it was flying on a course of 130 degrees southwest of Železná Ruda. At that time,

he had the (future) violator to his right, behind (i.e. on the German side of) the border.

Somewhere probably in the vicinity of Luzný hill he lost contact but shortly afterwards

he again caught sight of it to his left, near Knížeci Plány, giving him the impression that a

violation had occurred. In reality, however, he had himself unsuspectingly entered into

FRG territory. From Luzný hill, the border swerves to the north and shortly thereafter,

near Malá Mokrůvka hill, to the east. So, in a left turn, but unfortunately already in

German territory, he confidently opened fire on the violator with S-5 unguided rockets,

fortunately missing.

A second version, publicized on the website, probably has its origins

among the members of the former 11 th Helicopter Regiment at Plzeň. At that time, they

also stood alert in the PVOS (national air defense) system with Mi-24s, so they can be

considered as “in the know”. This version mistakenly presents the date of the incident (3

Oct, 1985, which was the date the incident appeared in public press), but it also provides

additional interesting information, from which we’ve drawn here: “Slávek Piskatý took

off in an L-39ZA from Dobrany, about 85 km from the spot of the violation. After about 10

minutes, he reached the area of Knížecí Plány, where he found the Cobra. He reported to

the Direction Post that he had spotted the target. Comms between the controller and pilot

weren’t very good because of the range and the low altitude. Nor was precise navigation

possible in the forested area at the assigned airspeed. As it happened, our pilot closed on

the Cobra so tightly that he reached firing position at the minimum possible range. He

reported that he had the Cobra in his sights. There was an exchange of comms in which

the pilot requested clearance to fire. He fired eight unguided rockets and immediately

broke away from the target. For that reason, he didn’t see the results of the firing. Upon

report of the shooting, panic broke out as to whether the controller had actually granted

permission to fire… As captured by the gun camera, the firing was shown to have been

carried out perfectly. S-5 unguided rockets were identifiable headed towards the Cobra at

the correct height.” Also of interest is this final tidbit: “Petr Příbík, a forester, was

working ‘beyond the fence’ in the area of Knížecí Plány (Prameny). He noted the firing

and saw black smoke rising from a valley (across the border) in Bavaria. He reported

this, but State authorities locked him away for two days, so as not to influence the

investigation (!).”

A third version comes from a source in the headquarters of the then-3rd Division of the

PVOS in Žatec, under whose jurisdiction that sector was located. The source rules out an

intrusion into the FRG by the L-39ZA. According to the source, the reverse is true; the

American helicopter violated the Czechoslovak border. The helicopter was not under

continuous radar guidance, but the Czechoslovak aircraft was tracked to such a degree

that a violation of the border from its side can be ruled out. This is corroborated as well

by reports from ground-based PVOS observers. The order to fire was issued directly by

the main PVOS command post and conveyed to the pilot by a subordinate command post.

After the incident and lodging of the American protest, both sides scoured the terrain

along both sides of the border in order to establish where the rockets fell. In the densely

vegetated, mountainous terrain it was, however, futile. Neither involved side could refute

the other’s version nor corroborate its own with irrefutable evidence.

All of the above-cited versions agree on one fundamental point – that, while in a left turn,

shooting at an American helicopter was carried out. In a second area, however, the

question of a border violation, they are diametrically opposed. M. Moráček (“The 30 th

Fighter-Bomber Regiment”, page. 85) has this to say about the incident: “So a situation

occurred on October 3 rd when one of a group of aircraft deployed to the airfield at České

Budějovice fired a salvo of unguided rockets at an American AH-1S Cobra helicopter.

This occurred in the area of Kvilda (this area can be approximately associated with the

area of Knížecí Plání – author’s note). The affair was never objectively evaluated by our

side and the other side never commented on the incident.” Forgive the inaccuracy of the

date and the subordination of the attacking aircraft – Mr. Moráček’s article emerged in

the latter 1990’s, based for the most part on sources’ memories – but even the

information about the reaction of the Americans is untrue. A ČTK (the official

Czechoslovak news agency) news item released on October 3, 1985 in (the Czech

newspapers) Rudý Pravo and Jihočeská Pravda and which can be considered a fourth and

completely official Czech version, presented this in brief: “On September 28, 1985 an

American AH-1S helicopter carried out a provocative, 100-km long flight directly along

the border. A reacting Czechoslovak L-39 aircraft, in the area where the danger of a

violation threatened, released warning signals, whereupon the crew of the helicopter

changed course back into FRG territory.” Certainly noteworthy is another passage that

mentions the categorical rejection of the American protest by the Czechoslovak Foreign

Ministry on October 1, 1985. According to the protest, the Czechoslovak L-39

penetrated into FRG (airspace) and attacked the helicopter. The Czechoslovak rejection

doesn’t mention any damage to the helicopter from the firing. The Americans reacted; of

course our authorities deflected the protest by referring to the necessity of preventing

provocative flights that, along the border, create an exceptionally dangerous situation.

It certainly follows from the ČTK report that our Foreign Ministry did not confirm a

border violation by the American helicopter and, consequently, didn’t protest a violation,

as would have undoubtedly happened in the opposite case. This must have all come

about due to information from the MOD, as submitted directly from the headquarters of

the PVOS 3 rd Division. So then why was the order to fire given?

Czech Fighter Fires at U.S. Copter Patrolling W.

German Border

Michael Weisskopf, Washington Post Staff Writer

October 2, 1985; Page A22

A Czechoslovak military jet crossed into West Germany Saturday and fired at least two

missiles at a U.S. Army helicopter flying a "routine" surveillance mission near

Czechoslovakia's southwest border, Pentagon officials said yesterday.

The Cobra attack helicopter, carrying a two-man crew, was not struck and returned safely

to its base near Nuremberg without returning the fire, said Defense Department

spokesman Robert B. Sims. The United States filed a "strong protest" with the

Czechoslovak Embassy here Monday, Sims said. He told reporters at a briefing that the

Cobra did nothing to provoke "this irresponsible act which endangered the lives of the

U.S. crewmen."

The incident was the 17th violation of West German airspace by Warsaw Pact aircraft in

the last six months but the first in which missiles were fired at a U.S. aircraft, according

to Sims.

In April 1984, a Cobra came under missile and cannon attack from two Soviet-built

warplanes, flown by Czechoslovaks, as it patrolled the border between West Germany

and Czechoslovakia. The Pentagon acknowledged later that the U.S. helicopter, which

escaped damage, had strayed more than six miles into Czechoslovak airspace.

A Pentagon official said Saturday's attack took place near the West German town of

Freyung about a mile from the Czechoslovak border. He said intelligence reports indicate

that the pilot of the Czechoslovak L39 jet trainer knew the Cobra had not strayed across

the border.

"You have to believe either they're not under positive control or the incident was

deliberate provocation," he said of the Czechoslovak pilot.

A State Department official said the attack reflected a "cat and mouse game" played by

opposing aircraft patrolling the borders that separate Warsaw Pact and North Atlantic

Treaty Organization nations. He said there is no indication that the L39 intended to hit the


"I don't think a chopper would have been too hard to hit if they took aim," he said. "But

we need to remind them that we take these things seriously. Maybe next time they won't


Sims said the L39 fired two to four rockets at the Cobra without warning. He said he did

not know the type and range of the air-to-air missiles, or how close they came to the

Cobra. Nor could he say how near the Czechoslovak plane came to the helicopter before

launching the attack.

Another L39 was in the area but did not enter West German airspace, according to Sims.

The spokesman said the Cobra, which was armed with 20mm guns, made no attempt to

return the fire in what would have been a "mismatch" if a confrontation with the jet

fighter had occurred.

Sims said the attack took place about 1 a.m. Saturday in the southeast corner of West

Germany, in an area wedged between Czechoslovakia to the north and Austria to the


Two separate groups of West German citizens witnessed and confirmed the attacks,

according to Sims.

The Cobra, assigned to the 2nd Armored Cavalry at Feucht Army Airfield near

Nuremberg, was conducting a routine reconnaissance mission, he said. U.S. aircraft

patrol the border every day as a "confidence-building measure" to make sure there are no

unusual fortifications, troop movements or changes in troop composition, he said.

A Pentagon official said the Cobra's pilot and copilot did not initially realize they were

targets of an attack and thought their helicopter was backfiring.

After observing the smoke of rocket fire, they spotted the L39 and dropped in altitude to

evade the attack, according to the official. The crew then landed in a field and checked

the craft for damage before returning to their base, he said.

Sims said the helicopter crew was experienced and well trained for surveillance flights.

The pilot had 680 hours of flight time, including 250 hours in the border region.