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

Jul 21 2014 - 65 Comments

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


  • Lawrence D. Wood

    The question is, why did these so-called separatists have such a toy in the first place? It is pretty certain that Russia supplied the weapon. All knew civil aviation was still overflying the Ukraine. Why was that airspace not denied to civil aviation? There were altitude restrictions in place, because everyone on both sides believed that MANPADS were the most capable air defense weapon in the hands of the separatists. Apparently, so did NATO to allow civil aviation to overfly a war zone.
    NATO should strike the province, and support the Ukraine and kill as many of these Russian surrogates as possible. Dare the Russian Bear to come out of its den. Otherwise, the Typhoons, Grippins, F16s, F15s, F22s, Mirages, Rafals, all are just show pieces. 298 people dead, because of what comes down to EGOs. What was the threat from 33,000 ft by a 777?
    The separatists need to be taught a lesson, the occupied areas need to be starved out with no fly zones at least 100 miles in diameter.
    The Ukraine needs to receive the latest NATO anti-armor and NATO air support.
    What the heck has the U.S. been supporting all these years with our troops, aircraft and armor–all of which has contributed to fat socialist economies, which failed to build up their own military for self defense. Uncle can’t do it all, folks.
    Get off your dead asses and show the Russians Europe is not a paper tiger, or succumb to Putin’s threats.
    Besides, doesn’t the Luftwaffe and the Bundeswehr have scores to settle . . . : )

    • Linda Serena

      The Luftwaffe certainly is not interested in helping a fascist, oligarch US installed junta bombing its own population with air planes, particularly not after the killings on Maidan and in Odessa.

    • Tim

      Ha! As an Australian Merkel is no friend of ours… These aren’t her people, she doesn’t care except ongoing trade to the East… The US and UK are the same

  • Linda Serena

    Kiev still has not provided audio files between flight control and the air plane. This is usually the first thing made public.

    • Dusan

      Wonder why…But they had VIDEO of truck (made in krasnoarmeisk, in Ukraine territory) and audio recordings which ,it seems,convinced anyone!

  • GP

    Ugh, The Aviationist does himself no favors rehashing internet rumor like this.

  • hobbitcid

    Just because the rebels think there is a “no fly zone” (exclusion area) doesn’t make it one. A no fly zone is declared by the state that it is in, or by legal parties to a conflict. The People’s Republic of Donetsk cannot simply declare a no fly zone. They don’t have the authority. Moreover, no fly zone’s are coordinated with the aviation community so they can be declared in a Notice To Airman (NOTAM). The NOTAM for the Eastern Ukraine exclusion zone was up to 31K.

    Bottom line, a criminal act is a criminal act even if the perpetrator thinks his actions are legal. Still no excuse.

  • Gaz007

    Hi Latinik / Nastek2 –

    This graphic from IHS Janes might help you. Original source here: http://press.ihs.com/press-release/aerospace-defense-terrorism/ihs-media-statements-ukrainemalaysian-aircraft-incident

    Note that the maximum altitude of the MANPADS SA-16 Gimlet is 11 500 feet. The An-26 was flying at 21 300 feet when it was hit – almost twice the height of the SA – 16 ceiling and hence was not “well within reach of MANPADS”. And MH17 was at 33 000 feet.

    Furthermore it is entirely likely that a poorly trained operative staring at a radar screen might mistake another AN-26 for a B777, especially if it was cloudy at the time and hence no visual confirmation could be made.

    Also to say that no one knows but that evidence leans towards ‘x’ is not a contradiction, it’s expressing a degree of likelihood. I don’t hate Russia either, I just think it is more likely, based on the evidence, that the pro-Russia rebels shot down MH17 than the Ukraine forces.

  • aniptofar

    That would seem to take more assets than the Ukrainians have. Keeping that many planes in the air much less escorting them seems totally unbelievable.

  • aniptofar

    You can’t see that at 33000 feet. Also, the fighter would be flying cap/higher.

  • Mr. Denali

    “Iranian defense expert Babak Taghvaee”? Are you serious? I can’t belive, you did’nt contact Putin first…

  • ODM

    He’s not contradicting himself, he is pointing out 2 separate things.
    1) Nobody has the whole story yet, so nobody can say for certain what happened.
    2) Looking at the evidence collected so far, the most compelling explanation is a missile from a rebel-controlled area.

    Just because he is voicing suspicions based on evidence doesnt mean he is claiming to know exactly what happened. If he did that, THEN he would be contradicting himself.

  • Nic

    That is a BS article, seems that the GRU, FSB looks more like North Korean propaganda this days. Putin must be in deep shit to star such a ridiculous propaganda, science fiction stories!
    I was expecting a more professional attitude from The Aviationist…..” Iranian expert” my ass, GRU expert ….of course try contact an iranian expert, see if you can….

  • Yossarian

    Nothing. Everything else makes totaly sense.

  • Hans

    You seem to have conveniently forgotten that both Putin and Medvedev are Jewish.

  • Gruia

    You mean apart from the bleeding obvious fact that, as an outsider, he couldn’t possibly have inside knowledge on the goings-on of an airforce at war?

  • Everyone was quick to blame the rebels simply because they celebrated shooting of “yet another An-26” on that day. Only when everyone found out it was actually MH17 they said it was not them. And that they never had “Buks” – while openly celebrating arrival of “Buks” just a few days earlier.

  • Evidence from Russian media http://lifenews.ru/news/136801 (“Self-defence announced An-26 shot down in eastern Ukraine”)

  • “Anti-Kiev forces in eastern Ukraine are abducting, attacking, and harassing people they suspect of supporting the Ukrainian government or consider undesirable” http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/05/23/ukraine-anti-kiev-forces-running-amok

  • ppp

    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).

  • Alian

    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.