Don't SAM crews get trained for this kind of an eventuality? You'd think they'd get suckered into shooting down an airliner during a few of their simulator sessions in military school just to make double and triple sure the identification procedure for civilian aircraft sticks in their minds like the aftermath of a good hard kick in the nuts.
And these days they do. It's one of those "lessons learned" things.
I, along with a bunch of other guys, once got sucked into lighting up an entire household of civilians in training. It really, really sucked. But the reason those scenarios existed is because some poor bastards lit up civilian households for real, and we got to learn from their mistakes.
Yes it is sad how people always have to die before lessons are learned. I always figured the Flight 007 was a similar case, after seeing documentaries about both incidents I see them in a similar light. In both the case of F007 and the Vincennes case it sounded like there were pretty obvious common sense procedure they could have done to avoid the situation. In the case of F007 that would have included flying in front of the guy, nobody fails to notice a Su-15 hovering in front of their windshield, and in both cases calling the airliner on air traffic frequencies might have been a good idea. Having heard an interview with that Soviet pilot it sounded like nobody ever bothered to tell him or his colleagues what procedure to follow when they have get the attention of an airliner pilot, in the arctic darkness, with a bunch of nervous brass-hats yelling at them over a radio link any more than any body bothered to drill the SAM operators on the Vincennes how to exhaust all possible options on contacting an airliner. I don't doubt such procedures were implemented on the double and triple afterwards by the Soviets (and a whole string of other air forces to be sure) and they included intercepting pilots doing a thorough eyes on inspection and providing a description of the target aircraft to GCOs, always intercepting in teams and both fitting all interceptors with tracer ammo on at least one of their guns at all times and making the interceptor fly in front of the target to make sure they are seen. It sure still sucks that nobody thought of training scenarios like that right off the bat.