Malaysian Boeing 777 with 295 people on board shot down over Eastern Ukraine

A Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed in Ukraine near the Russian border after being hit from a surface to air missile.

A Boeing 777 (9M-MRD) with 280 passengers and 15 crew members, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was reportedly shot down about 50NM to the northwest of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.

Based on the last transponder signal (with ADS-B mode) recorded by FlightRadar24, the aircraft at 13:21 UTC was at flying at 476 knots, at FL330 at position N48.56 E37.21.

Since the beginning of the fightings in Eastern Ukraine, between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian military, several aircraft (including large cargo planes as an An-30 and an Il-76 and many Mi-24 Hind and Mi-8 Hip helicopters) were shot down by the local militia using portable surface-to-air missile systems.

A video showed an Il-76 releasing flares shortly after take off from Donetsk, a sign that Ukrainian cargo planes are equipped with self-defenses against heat seeking air-to-air or surface-to-air missiles.

Little details are available on the type of MANPADS used in Ukraine, other than they pose a serious threat to Ukrainian aircraft. As already pointed out in the recent past, those involved in the downing of two Mil Mi-24 Hind helicopters by “unknown persons by means of man-portable air defense system (PZRK)” overnight into May 2, were Igla: either 9K310 Igla-1 (SA-16 “Gimlet”), or newer 9K38 Igla (SA-18 “Grouse”), which are known to be operated by the Ukrainian (and Russian) military; others were reportedly stolen from Ukrainian units in March and may have ended in the separatists hands.

However, according to the Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, the plane was hit by a SAM fired from a Russian-built SA-11 Buk launcher.

The Buk, known as SA-11 or SA-17 is a self propelled medium range, medium altitude anti aircraft system with a maximum range of 13NM and a ceiling of 39,400 feet. With a semi-active radar homing guidance system and a 70 Kg warhead it may hit a large plane at FL330 and cause a catastrophic decompression.

The SA-11 is known to be operated by the Ukrainian armed forces; a launcher was also spotted in Eastern Ukraine lately.

Other reports say it could have been an SA-6 Cube captured from Kiev stocks. But the SA-6 is mobile surface-to-air missile system for low to medium-level air defence system that is not believed to be able to reach the crusing level of the MH17 flight.

Ukrainian Mi-24 Hinds have been fitted with “Andros KT-01AVE” Counter MANPADS suites with “L166V1A Lipa” jammers as self-protection against SAMs.

Time to restrict airspace in the area to civil planes and equip them with countermeasures as well.

By the way, it’s a very sad year for Malaysian Airlines with a second big incident occurring about four months after the mysterious disappearance of MH370.

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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.