Say it ain’t so…

The New York Times Wrong Again notes this NYT photo:


Pakistani men with the remains of a missile fired at a house in the Bajur tribal zone near the Afghan border.

Reason writes:

Whatever is happening in the U.S. shadow war in Pakistan it is clear that this photo gets it all wrong.

What is identified as the “remains of a missile” is quite clearly an artillery shell.

No kidding. I’ve long said that most journalists know only three things about the military: My Lai, the Pentagon Papers, and the words “Tet Offensive”.

What’s left unasked, though, is the actual origin of that artillery shell. It was either brought in (a prop for a photo shoot, maybe?) or it was there already. If that shell really was dug out of the wreckage of that house, maybe the missile strike wasn’t so far off target after all. (via Reynolds)

UPDATE: Instapundit links to an American Thinker post on the possible cluelessness/deceptiveness of the NYT.

Malkin has several good links, as well.

UPDATE 2 : Officer’s Club gives us a pic of a Hellfire missile to compare/contrast, and also notes that missiles (and shells, for that matter) usually go BOOM when they hit. I was going to point out that when “remains of a missile” are found, they’re usually about the size of a dime and identified by parts of serial numbers. But I didn’t want to go get all “technical” and confuse anyone.

It’s sorta funny how much attention this is getting.


  1. Geez, that’s a big one though. Looks to be maybe an 8 inch/203mm shell. Did Iraq have guns that big? Or am I mistaken and it’s 6 inch/155mm?

  2. You need to read the posts on the link. General agreement that it is either 155 or 152mm shell that has been fired. Either a dud or training round. If it’s a dud, those guys are posing for their Darwin award photo. Pretty funny that the NYT can think it’s a missile.

  3. I know of a person, who wrote an article to the BBC website, with a quote. He said that he was there when the underground bombings happened. In reality he was at work, bored and wrote a false e-mail. He got his quote along with his false name on a web-article title. While I could technically be making this up, imagine who sent in this picture… chances are it was someone who stumbled upon the picture and then decided to post it as a joke/protest(recall our captured GI joe type doll). The chances are that only a few false stories/pictures will get through, simply because of the other news that is in competition with it. But as far as researching the credibility, I think news agencies don’t do it simply because of time restraints. If they get a story on the break, it is more beneficial to them, than to make sure it is real. For them the benefits outweigh any risks of a false story.

  4. Drudge had a link to an interesting article on this subject. I question the logic of using a stand off weapon against a highly mobile target of any kind. I am especially critical of the thought process that allows you to send a pre-programmed drone to attack a target of this sort in a city in an allied nation. Basically, I’m in disbelief. What the hell were they thinking? Now, had there been a team of observers on the ground coordinating an airstrike, that would have been another thing. They could have watched the houses, confirmed the presence of bad guys, and called in the munitions while lasing the target. This wasn’t done that way. They programmed the drone, probably hours before. It’s not like hitting a bridge. You want to take out one of these houses WHEN THE BAD GUY IS THERE, not before or after. Perhaps it is the foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist in me, but I just have to wonder if this relates at all to the news of the J-UCAV program being cancelled. I think some serious restrictions should be placed on the types of missions an unmanned vehicle is allowed to perform. It’s clearly time to get past the bs press releases regarding how the UAV is going to replace piloted air vehicles.

  5. I can see using a faked picture for an article if it makes sense. This picture makes absolutely no sense with the story or caption. One glance from a military consultant would have landed the photo in the trash. NYT is reporting on a Hellfire missile strike from a UAV. In the picture is of a large artillery shell. No one with even a little military knowledge could mistake this big steel warhead for the ‘remains of a missile.’

  6. My bet would be a 152mm soviet style projo. It appears from the fact that the rotating band seems to be engraved (marked by the rifling in the gun/howitzer it was fired from) it is a dud. The photo is hard to see, but it also appears that the fuze is broken off, or is that a nose plug on the tip? Perhaps we should always drop already fired duds on them to save money? There are a bunch layin round. OoOrrrr, is it possible that since the bad guys use duds for IED’s we are lookin at one of their pre-IED’s that they brought out for a photo op?

  7. Well my first thought is, How much does that thing weigh? Looks like a good 150lbs at least. Then I thought well how did they get it out to that remote a location. Then I thought, well how did they heave it up onto that crumbling wall. Then, I thought, how did they get it to stand straight up on crumbling wall, and how is the clearly crumbling wall supporting the weight. I thought this has to be some kind of photo fabrication. Now maybe it is just me but, I think I notice a barely perceptible white line from the cropping process around the object!!! What type of round has a yellow band around it? What does a yellow band around an artillery shell denote? Tim Reed

  8. That round in the photo is a 203mm round fired out of the M110A2 track mounted artillery gun. see here: You can clearly match up the lettering from the NY Times photo to this photo. Pakistan has these artillery guns available and they have a range of over 25 miles so it’s not inconcievable that there was additional fire called in after the air strike by ground teams. The shell does not look old to me. If you look at the unfired photo round you can see the banding below the yellow markings. In the NY Times photo you can see the unbanded round with the rifling marks shown. Hope this helps you out. I don’t really think this was some big liberal conspiracy

  9. I wish the photo was better. I wish the photo of the 8′ had the cover removed from the rotating band. The 155mm (Murican) projo has a double rotating band. The one in this photo appears to have a single. I am not convinced it is an 8′ projo because of the distance between the rotating band and the beginning of the ‘bevel’ to the boatail. Placement of the photo also confuses the size. How close is it to the camera. Weight of a 155 type projo is about 95 lbs. Weight of an 8′ projo is about 200 lbs. Both are relatively easily handled by one or two gunners. It is a propaganda shot due to the caption. It is a lie.

  10. The shell of an artillery round can be commonly found in the Frontier province. Not sure where they get the rounds from, but you’ll find them if you look hard enough. Obviously they set the round to stand up, because I doubt it would land like that on its own.

  11. I still think it’s 8′ because the child appears to be in front of, or at least level with it, and his head is significantly narrower than the round. Average head width for children approximately his age is 143.91mm. So if that was a 155mm round we’d expect it to be just a bit wider than his head. It looks about 40% wider than his head to me, 143.91 * 1.4 = 201mm. So I think it’s a 203mm shell. Regardless, it’s obviously an artillery shell and has almost certainly been fired. Yes, you can call it a ‘missile’ if you want to but I think it would require a note explaining it as that’s not common usage. It certainly looks nothing like a Hellfire.

  12. Dfens, Perhaps you should do a little more research man. First, a Hellfire is nowhere near the range of a ‘standoff’ weapon. Second it seems you have no idea how predator drones are operated. It is flown remotely and the weapons are fired remotely which means our guys ‘saw’ the bad guys go in there — so they blew them up. This is not the movie ‘Stealth’; this is reality; aircraft CANNOT make decisions on their own. You’re right about one thing though – the time to take out these targets is when the bad GUYS are there. So its to bad THE bad guy wasn’t there but it looks like we got plenty of others, SO – OORAH!!

  13. Unless that Hellfire had a modified warhead, I’m kind of wondering why they’d fire one at a building. The Hellfire’s got a good sized warhead, but it’s an anti-armor missile, which means a shaped charge. Shaped charge warheads aren’t all that effective against buildings. Kind of makes me wonder if the Pakistani army wasn’t involved (thus where the 8′ shell came from) and they’re just letting Uncle Sam take all the blame for domestic political reasons.

  14. Libertarian, as previously discussed here, there seem to be Hellfires with thermobaric warheads for use against structures and such. It makes sense that they should be developed – it just requires swapping the shaped charge warhead for a general purpose high explosive. They seem to do a significant amount of damage, more than I would have thought possible from a small missile. Hellfires can be fired out of line-of-sight as long as there is a laser designator on the target. But yes, their maximum range is on the order of 5-10 miles, not what I think could really be considered a significant standoff distance.

  15. OK, I think others are right, it’s 152/155mm, I was fooled by the perspective. What’s more, I’m fairly certain it’s American-made. I can make out the following letters at the top, now that I’ve seen a higher-res version from Donald Sensing: 15 HE I’m assuming the rubbed off part is ‘5mm’. Does Pakistan own US-made 155mm guns and shells? If so, that would explain the origin. It’s still not clear whether it’s a dud they found lying around and brought it home, or if the Pakistanis actually fired it at their house and it failed to explode. The fact that it looks blue with a yellow stripe, rather than the typical green with yellow stripe for an American shell, is a bit odd but perhaps that’s how the shells sold to Pakistan were painted.

  16. Doh, you’re right, it is a remotely piloted vehicle. It seems there is a lot here that’s unexplained – and will probably remain that way. I can’t say I feel too sorry for people who harbor terrorists.

  17. Most sane people who have spent time in a combat zone develop a healthy paranoia about unexploded ordinance. Duds, mines, unexploded cluster munitions, and anything else that looks vaguely dangerous are to be given a very wide berth. More than one U.S. serviceman has gone home missing limbs or in a bag after getting too close to that crap. If this photo is real – the shell not just photo-shopped in – these people are stupid beyond description.