“All flights were being escorted by Ukrainian Su-27 Flanker jets over Eastern Ukraine” Aviation Journalist Claims

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

Editor’s note: all the investigations in the incident have proved no Ukrainian Air Force jet was flying anywhere near MH-17 (this was also the Ukrainian Government official stance). Therefore, the account by Babak Taghvaee that you can read in this article is at least inaccurate, if not totally fake, as his description of the “picture” around MH-17 has been completely debunked. With that in mind, if you want, you can still read what he claimed. This story serves as a reminder that even trusted sources can be dangerously inaccurate, fueling speculations and sparking fake news.

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, author and AFM contributor 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

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.


  1. I was looking for news about downed boeing and found this article. Main thing is, that ukrainian government (Poroschenko himself) denied, that ANY ukrainian military plane was in that area, in fact, any ukrainian military plane was in use in that time. Russians showed their readings from radars showing another plane next to downed boeing just before it was shoot down, Ukrainians denied it (sorry for my english).

  2. Russian Mig-29 fighting Ukranian Su-27 and Su-25…. Article’s main source – the iranian self-promoted ‘expert’ got an Tom Clancy’s intoxication for sure. Or Ukranian mass media intoxication. They’re both are full of fiction.

    Truth is that there is no such thing as Russian figters in Ukranian sky.

    All the aircraft at SW Ukraine civil region except MH-17 flight were shot down by people militia of Donbass using infantry personnel carried SAM systems – USSR’s SA-7 ‘Grail’ or it’s modifications, whose have the 3000 meters altitude limit. No other data were provided yet except some Ukranian official claims that one aircraft was shot down at 6km (with mission to do parachute drop of supplies to surrounded by Donbass militia Ukranian troops, whose is dumb from 6km – bags will flow to rebels, so it is performed no more than 3km altitude).

    Ukraine officials denied that rebels got the SA-11 launcher from ukranian army and among US and western mass media tried to convict Russia in trafficking the SA-11 to battlefield. But their complete success in mass media was followed with complete inability to provide any significant proof of that diffamation mass media campaign. Finally, Pentagon officials said they got all the evidence from social networks (!!!!).

    And, Russian Ministry of Defense had provided the sattellite pictures, radio frequency and air traffic control radar systems data showing following:

    a) Ukranian SA11 deployed near crash site, several divisions were able to fire at MH 17

    b) Activity of SA-11 search radar exactly before, in and after time of crash

    c) Presense of some attack aircraft near MH-17 at time of crash, no clear identification, but it could be the Su-25 (unclear identification – by speed, climb speed and radar signature) whose are actively used by Ukranian Air Forces for ground strike again rebels, but it also has limited air strike capability with two shortrange IR Guided R-60 missiles and GSh-30 30mm twin-barrel gun. Also, Su-25 have ability to reach the 10000m altitude and is equipped with oxygen equipment.

    Press conferention of Russian Ministry of Defense was on July, 21. All the materials are available on RUssian MD site. Also – on youtube, f.e. here:

    That was very serious claims still answered by no one.

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