Tag Archives: Boeing 777

Analysis: what these signs on the wreckage tell us about the missile strike that downed MH17

Evidence of shrapnel damage to the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 has emerged from images taken at the crash site.

Photos taken at the MH17 crash site clearly show shrapnel signs on various parts of the wreckage of the Boeing 777 shot down over eastern Ukraine while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 298 people on board.

Among all the images published on media outlets from all around the world, the one first published by Financial Times over the past weekend, struck our attention.

The piece of wreckage, reportedly measuring 1 mt sq, has a couple of distinctive features that may help the identification: the colored stripes of the Malaysia Airlines livery and the bolts of the cockpit side windshield.

Based on these details, with the help of our contributor Giuliano Ranieri, we identified (and obviously we were not the only ones) the piece as a chunk of front fuselage located next to the cockpit (slightly below it), on the left hand side of the plane.

The piece has several burn marks, a large central hole and several smaller punture marks surrouding it. The edges of the small holes seem to be bent outwards, evidence of something that got out of the skin from the inside of the plane.

This is a sign the missile, most probably fired by an SA-11 system according to almost all reports to date, equipped with a proximity fuse, detonated on the right side of the aircraft not too far from the nose, scattering several fragments of shrapnel so fast that they traversed the plane from side to side: they entered through the right side of the airframe and got out from the left one.

Furthermore, considering the amount of puncture marks concentrated at the base of the cockpit window’s we can assume both pilots were hit by high speed, hot shrapnels that most probably did not give them time to realize what was going on.

MH17 part with holes identified

Image credit: FT.com/graphic by Giuliano Ranieri

 

There’s an American EF-111 Raven in the graphic shown by Russia to prove a Ukrainian Su-25 flew close to the MH17

Based on the graphic shown by the Russian Ministry of Defense, it was a U.S. EF-111 Raven to fly close to the MH17 just before it was shot down.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, a Ukrainian Air Force Su-25 was detected by one of Russia’s radars in the area climbing towards the MH17 on the day the civilian plane with 298 people on board was shot down.

The SU-25 fighter jet can gain an altitude of 10km, according to its specification. [...] It’s equipped with air-to-air R-60 missiles that can hit a target at a distance up to 12km, up to 5km for sure.”

Interestingly, the Russian MoD said the Su-25 (mistakenly defined as a “fighter jet” whereas it is an attack plane) operated well above its ceiling of 23,000 feet. Even more interesting the Wiki page of the Su-25 was edited (by a Russian IP address) to update its specifications…

Anyway, even though we reported the speculations about the alleged Ukrainian military activity in the surroundings of the MH17 flight, we can’t but notice that the graphic used by the Russian MoD has another major flaw: it depicts (on the left) the Boeing 777 as a Boeing 707, and the Su-25 (on the right) with the shape of an EF-111 Raven, a famous, retired, U.S. electronic warfare plane!

SOLID SHIELD '87

Top image credit: Russian MoD via RT.com; bottom: Wiki

 

 

“All flights, including Malaysian B777, were being escorted by Ukrainian Su-27 Flanker jets over Eastern Ukraine”

According to an authoritative source, two Su-27 Flankers escorted the Malaysian Boeing 777 minutes before it was hit by one or more missiles.

There are still too many unanswered questions about the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 over eastern Ukraine on Jul. 17, 2014. Among them, one of the most important deals with the possible error made by the operator inside the SA-11 “Gadfly” (“Buk”) TELAR (transporter erector launcher and radar) who did fire one or more missiles against a civilian plane.

Indeed, the operators inside the Buk could “read” the Boeing 777′s altitude and transponder and could easily identify the civilian plane enroute from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flying at FL300 inside the eastern Ukraine’s airspace.

Why did they mistake a large civilian plane for a smaller Ukrainian Air Force surveillance plane?

Just a matter of poor training?

Iranian defense expert Babak Taghvaee believes the mistake was caused by the fact the Malaysian Boeing 777 was escorted over eastern Ukraine. Taghvaee is always very well informed and an extremely reliable source. Therefore, after he provided some details about this activity of the Ukrainian Air Force on ACIG forum thread about the war in Ukraine, we contacted him for some more insight.

Here’s what he wrote to us.

“When the Crimea crisis began, the Ukrainian Air Force air command center quickly forward deployed six Su-27s to the Kulbakino AB. Since beginning of the crisis and the Russia intervention, the 831st TAB has the important task to provide air defense as well as security of whole country. Six fully armed Flankers have always been in the sky especially when the other Ukrainian Air Force airplanes such as transporters and attackers like Fulcrums and Rooks were in the East of Ukraine,” explains Taghvaee.

“But when the Su-25M1 was shot down by the Russia Air Force 6969th AB’s MiG-29 on Jul. 16, the situation and condition became more critical than previous days and more Su-27 sorties were conducted to confront Russian MiG-29s. I believe those two Su-27s were not in sky just for standard practice in that day [Jul. 17], I believe they were involved in HAVCAP (High  Asset Value Combat Air Patrol) mission sortie in that day.”

In other words: since the Russian interceptors had downed a Su-25 on the previous days, the Ukrainian escorted all military and civil flights over eastern Ukraine on Jul. 17. Including MH17.

“During the UEFA 2012, the 831st TAB and its Flankers had same role, during those competitions they had duty to escort the airliners in FL330 and other routes in case emergency. They played same role during the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia. They were airborne and they even escorted a hijacked airplane. They were also ready to provide security of all passenger airplanes over Ukraine. They are now following same procedure and they could protect all of the airplanes over Ukraine in-front of Russians since Jul 16.”

Provided the Su-27s were really escorting or (more likely) watching from their CAP station many, if not all, civil flights over Eastern Ukraine for the first time ever on Jul. 17, in the wake of the downing of the Su-25, the operators inside the Buk may have mistaken the Boeing 777 shadowed by/near two Flankers for a high-value plane of the Ukrainian Air Force. On their radar screens, the sight of a large plane with two accompanying (or circling in CAP not too far away) fighter jets was completely new and may only mean the Ukrainians were escorting an important plane. And that would be the reason why they downed it without spending too much time analysing its transponder code and altitude.

 Image credit: Ukraine MoD

H/T Babak Taghvaee and ACIG.info

 

What it’s like to be sitting behind a radar screen of an SA-11 Buk SAM system

If you thought Buk (SA-11) SAM operators had a clear view of the airspace around their vehicle you were wrong.

The images and video in this post show the inside of a Buk (SA-11) SAM (surface to air missile) system’s TELAR transporter erector launcher and radar like the one possibly involved in the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight over Ukraine.

They give an idea of what it is like to be sitting behind the radar screen of the anti-aircraft sytem.

The Buk, known as SA-11 or SA-17 depending on the variant, is a self-propelled medium range, medium altitude anti-aircraft system with a maximum range of 13NM and a ceiling of 39,400 feet. It uses a semi-active radar homing guidance system: the missile listens to the signal emitted by the ground radar and reflected from the target and points itself towards it.

The difficult part of the engagement is obviously to distinguish between friendly and foe.

Basically, when sitting behind an old-fashioned radar screen, the system does not help too much to distinguish a military cargo plane from a Boeing 777 enroute at FL330 as both aircraft would appear to the operators as blips.

Inside_of_a_Buk-SAM-console_radar

But, Soviet-era air defense systems as the Buk are equipped with IFF (Identify Friend or Foe) systems meaning that they are able to detect if the system is targeting a civilian plane through its transponder code. Therefore, provided the operators are trained enough, they’ll be able to distinguish between a Ukrainian transport plane and a large airliner. If not, they will simply shoot.

Inside_of_a_Buk-SAM-console.jpg

Anyway, as suggested by a reader of this blog (“Phuzz”),  while it doesn’t include the Buk (SA-11), SAMSimulator will give you a pretty realistic view of what the operator of such a system would see.

Image credit: Wiki, SAMSimulator

 

Here’s why Malaysia Airlines MH17 overflew Ukraine on its way to Malaysia

In order to save time, fuel airliners to fly from departure airport to destination as close as possible to a Great Circle.

A great circle is the shortest path interconnecting two points on a sphere.

Since Earth is almost spherical, routes followed by aircraft follow great circles between departure and destination because they are shorter, thus make flights shorter and cheaper for airlines.

Obviously, it’s impossible to fly along the Great Circle until destination: aircraft departing from an airfield have to follow SIDs (Standard Instrumental Departure) routes, have to comply with airspace restrictions, avoid dangerous airspaces (or fly above them, as in the case of the MH17 shot down over Ukraine) or bad weather etc.

Nevertheless, routes are planned in such a way they are as close as possible to a Great Circle and the ideal GC route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crosses Ukraine.

map

Image credit: Great Circle Mapper

All European airlines followed (more or less) the same route and crossed the same airspace during long haul flights to Asia. Indeed, Singapore Airlines SQ351 (B777) and Air India AI113 (B787) were in the vicinity of Malaysia Airlines MH17 when it was hit by a missile (or more than one) most probably fired by an SA-11 Gadfly system.

Ukrainian authorities had banned aircraft from flying below FL320 (32,000 ft) but MH17, at FL330 was still within the reach of some of the most deadly weaponry in the hands of pro-Russia separatists that have been using SAM (Surface to Air Missile) systems quite effectively against Ukrainian Air Force aircraft.

The airspace over eastern Ukraine was closed to civilian flights after the incident.

Since no other restriction was in place, Malaysia Airlines flight dispatcher could plan the usual route to from AMS to KUL. Unfortunately that route brought the Boeing 777 in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Top image credit: Wiki