“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. Sensationalist headline, no solid facts. This whole article smells of Putin apologists.

    Kremlin really messed up this time. Now, even with all it’s desperate web brigade shilling, mass “media” fabricating one fairy tale, conspiracy theory or Kremlin-loyal “expert’s” lie after another, this genie is not going back into the bottle.

    The Russian detachment from reality is a diagnosis. In a couple of years time their mass media has de-evolved to the level of North Korea. Putin has contaminated his whole domain with a hateful doctrine of Russian supremacy, xenophobia and paranoia, where war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength. It would be fucking ridiculous, if it wasn’t so tragic.

    • At this point no one knows what really happened. I hope you realise that that does include you. So who’s to say who’s lying and who isn’t?

      We can only make assumptions. Does you find it more logical that Russia has their own Buk installations on Ukrainian territory? (This is a serious question, I’m not trying to mock you.) That would seem a rather risky strategy to me, seeing as they still try to play the “we’re trying to deescalate the region” card. What is your explanation?

      • indeed no one knows, but the weight of evidence does lean rather heavily against the pro-Russia rebels simply mis-identifying a civilian airliner and shooting it down and then panicking slightly when they realised just how badly they’d screwed up.

        I mean, on the one hand you’ve got articles like this with Ukrainian jets following MH17, Spanish ATC controllers etc etc.

        On the other hand you have the fact that MH17 was over rebel held territory when it was hit, the fact that several other aircraft over the same region were shot down a few days previously, including a high-flying transport aircraft, the boasting on twitter by rebel commanders about shooting down a plane and then hastily deleting their posts on realising it was civilian, the mysterious disappearance of the Buk system only a day or so after the incident, the restricted access to the still unsecured crash site the Russian propaganda machine / state media flailing about and trying to blame everybody else except the pro-Russia rebels and Putin. And all the while the poor families having to see TV pictures of the remains of their loved ones being “guarded” by intoxicated thugs with machine guns.

        ….but yes, no one “knows”.

        • US intel knows – and they are concealing SAT imagery. Ground witnesses say escort jets shot MH17 down.

    • Observer, its kind of interesting that you complain of “no solid facts” then make a post consisting solely of inflammatory, emotional anti-Russian propaganda, including warmongering neocon Jamie Kirchick’s mind-closing name-calling of the hour , “Putin apologist.” Seems its likely *you* are part of a desperate web brigade of shills.

      What brigade of shills is it? Socialism haters? Russia haters? Everyone-who-doesn’t-toe-the-pc-line-on-homosexuality-gets-smeared haters? I can’t tell, but that doesn’t
      keep me from refuting the poor logic of the points you have made.

      Whether or not Ukrainian freedom fighters accidentally shot down the plane or the Ukrainian government manipulated the event to garner sympathy may be something we will never know—the important point is that Russia support of separatists in Eastern Ukraine is not a major security threat to the United States. Instead of bogging down in unknowable details, we should look for the meaning of situations as they affect us.

      The Russians are attached enough to reality to be supplying major energy resources to Europe, and ferrying scientists to space, but good try parroting the New Republic line of attack.

      If anyone wants to rise above the one-sided neocon smear zone that is now dominating the discourse in the US on Russia, I suggest looking up former Princeton professor of Russian studies, Stephen F. Cohen’s many personable talks on available –Democracy Now is a good place. And the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity is a go to place for the anti-inflammatory facts omitted from much mainstream media discourse in the US on foreign policy.

      Where is your evidence that Russian mass media has devolved to the “level of North Korea” How ridiculous.
      Do you read Russian? How about Korean? How do you know?

      Photographs of Putin meeting with the Supreme Leader of Iran, Israeli leadership,
      Malaysian leadership, Chinese leadership and European leadership are available online (as well as with Barack Obama); therefore, to assert that he is xenophobic is an absurd smear. And if he had contaminated his whole domain with xenophobia, it would affect him, as well. By the way, “phobia” means irrational fear—with what the US has done in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and elsewhere, cautious distrust of US aggression is hardly irrational. Just like Americans recently discovered that suspicions of widespread government surveillance where hardly paranoid.

      If you are not a shill, that you are so unaware of your lack of critical thinking is what is tragic.

      In what you call Russia’s contaminated domain, Russians are enjoying a rising
      standard of living–usually not the fruits of a too-out-of-touch government. But hey, why bother our heads about whether the Russian leadership is actually good for the Russians…the real issue is whether they get in our way, right?

    • Just imagine what would have happened if the rebels were supported by the US. Would they blame Obama and make all this fuss in the media? I didn’t think so.

  2. THE AVIATIONIST – this is true then you have an absolute scoop on your hands and I’d be getting this verified and put to intl MSM… This brings up any number of questions and further discussion points

    • Ukrainian Su-25 fighter detected in close approach to MH17 before crash – Moscow
      “A Ukraine Air Force military jet was detected gaining height, it’s distance from the Malaysian Boeing was 3 to 5km,” said the head of the Main Operations Directorate of the HQ of Russia’s military forces, Lieutenant-General Andrey Kartopolov speaking at a media conference in Moscow on Monday.

      • At this point I neither believe Russia, ITS rebels or your narrow biased opinion… I’ve told you once,so understand, a Russian made rocket which pictures have shown has killed nearly forty of our citizens

        Frankly I’ve got no damn time for your rantings

        Btw only reason Russia is never ‘conquered’ is because Russia will happily sacrifice millions of Russian lives to ensure Moscow is safe, whereas most nations leaders don’t commit genocide of their own people.. Saddam, Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin and any number of small tribes nations or regions all have mass deaths of their own people on their hands… Putin is no different, except he is made weak every time the price of oil changes

  3. Buk is a close range air defense system and it cannot read transponder. The only thing it can read is friend or foe identification. In fact Russians were waiting for a Ukrainian An-26 military transport plane in that area at that time, which never came.

    • The An26 has a max altitude of 24,000 feet and flys at 270 mph. Even Ray Charles could spot the difference with that and something at 33,000 feet flying at 540 mph! Considering how many *stories* are out there, im getting the impression its mostly BS. Classic CIA tactic – hide in plain site and obfuscate with multiple stories so nothing is clear.

      • This rocket could come only from Ukrainian army, Russian military is very serious organisation,they would never give it to unprofessional rebels, and russian soldiers are not dumb,they would not shoot a civilian airline as it would be disastrous for Russia.They are trained people and CNN writes of Russian military as if it is a bunch of half-drunk maniacs.The same type of unbiased reports by Abwer led Hitler to believe that “Barbarossa” – invasion of Soviet Union- can actually work! (we know how that one ended…as with Napoleon.,.and Swedish…and Poles…and about everyone who was stupid enough to underestimatete Russia)

        • from the comments all I read is that the Ukraine is to blame. But I think, you all blame Ukraine, because you don’t believe that Russia can also make a mistake. Just get a serious investigation there. All what happens now is shameful and dishonorable acting by rebels and looters. + Russia is to blame for supporting a war outside of their territory.

  4. With the greatest of respect, your source is either living in dreamland or is a paid disinfo agent. First the “Spanish atc controller working in Ukraine, now this. Surely this can’t be helping your credibility.

  5. “And that’s the reason why they downed it…..”

    Jumping to conclusion much?

    Sorry, couldn’t resist the jab. It’s a very plausible/likely scenario, thx for the info on the Flanker CAP. However, we have no idea how close the Flankers were to MH-17. I saw on CNN a graph showing several other flights including Lufthansa and Singapore Air nearby at the time of the shootdown. Why weren’t those flights shot down if the Flankers were “escorting” them as well? This is A POSSIBLE reason for the shootdown, and a very plausible one, but not THE reason. Without knowing the radar picture that the shooters on the ground were looking at, we’ll never know conclusively.

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