ABOARD THE USS CHANDLER IN THE PERSIAN GULF, FEB. 13 -- This U.S. Navy warship narrowly avoided one of two Iraqi-fired cruise missiles last night, and the ship's captain said today that he was urging a Pentagon investigation of the incident.

Cmdr. Steve Smith, skipper of the Destroyer Chandler, said he wanted the Pentagon to try to determine why one of the air-launched missiles made an unexpected turn that brought it within eight miles of a convoy of Kuwaiti tankers flying the American flag. The missiles apparently were Chinese-made C601, the air-launched version of the Silkworm. The other missile overshot the convoy and disappeared over the horizon.

"I don't know whether the missile had some capability {to maneuver} that we didn't know about or if it was defective," Smith said. "As far as we know, the Silkworm flies in a straight line."

The missile that flashed along the starboard side of the Chandler would have passed well astern of the convoy if it had not made the unexpected turn.

Smith called his ship to "general quarters," the Navy's highest state of alert, last night when radar showed that the Iraqi jet was approaching in an attack pattern.

He said it was clear that the Iraqi jet did not intend to attack ships in the convoy that were on their way to load with oil and liquid gas at Kuwait, an Iraqi ally.

The Chandler attempted to warn the Iraqi pilot by radio, but Smith said the pilot did not seem to understand English -- the international language of aviation. One of the ship's officers speaks Arabic, but no attempt was made to contact the pilot in his native language.

When the plane did not change course after the radio warning, Smith said, the Chandler fired two flares from its five-inch gun. Less than a minute later, the Iraqi plane changed course, veering away from the convoy. Seconds later, it fired both of its missiles. Radar on the Chandler showed no potential targets in the area where the missiles were aimed.

Last May, an Iraqi jet fired an Exocet missile at the U.S. frigate Stark, killing 37 sailors. Baghdad said it was a mistake and apologized.