International Pressure and Mounting Intelligence Data Force Iran’s Admission.
According to Iran’s state television, the Iranian military has reported accidentally shooting down Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 flight PS752 on Wednesday, January 8, over Tehran with two surface-to-air missiles. The Iranian admission of responsibility comes after days of speculation and finally, credible intelligence, that irrevocably challenged Iran’s initial explanation that the plane had crashed on its own.
Prior to Iran’s admission of responsibility for the plane’s crash, U.S. intelligence sources cited satellite acquired infra-red missile launch signatures from two surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles launched in proximity to the crash site at the time of the crash. The infra-red satellite data also showed the aerial detonation of the missiles, heat plume from the burning aircraft after missile detonation and the impact of the aircraft with the ground following the missiles’ intercept.
While speculation that the aircraft was shot down was widespread in the military and aviation community soon after the crash was initially reported, credible intelligence had not yet appeared in mass media. On Thursday, January 9, 2020, Newsweek journalists Naveed Jamali, James Laporta, Chantal Da Silva and Tom O’Connor filed a report that said, “The Ukrainian flight that crashed just outside the Iranian capital of Tehran was struck by an anti-aircraft missile system, a Pentagon official, a senior U.S. intelligence official and an Iraqi intelligence official told Newsweek. None of the officials was authorized to speak publicly on the matter.”
The first report of intelligence that strongly suggested the aircraft was shot down was preceded by worldwide speculation based on examination of internet photos from the crash scene. Many viewers believed the photos showed perforations in the fuselage and wings of the aircraft wreckage that are consistent with fragmentary warheads on surface-to-air missiles known to be in use by Iran.
Several photos surfaced on social media Thursday, January 9, that showed the nose component of a 9K331 Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile among the wreckage of the crashed Boeing 737. Since the explosive/fragmentary warhead of the Tor-M1 missile is located near the center of the missile, the nose section of the missile, which also contains four moveable guidance vanes, survived the intercept, warhead detonation and ground impact.
The missile’s nose section was clearly visible in several photos that appeared on social media. Reports appeared on Twitter that the person who took the photos may be at risk from Iranian internal security forces.
Armed Forces’ internal investigation has concluded that regrettably missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane & death of 176 innocent people.
Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great tragedy & unforgivable mistake. #PS752
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) January 11, 2020
The civilian airliner was engaged by an active air defense system “Due to ‘human error’. A statement from the military on Iranian state media said that the plane was mistaken for a “hostile target,” adding that forces were at the “highest level of readiness” at the time, according to the AP. The Iranian statement went on to say, “Those responsible will be held accountable”.
NYT in 2012 reported about an Iranian SA-15 (the same that shot down PS752) that was fired at a civilian airliner in 2007.
— Veli-Pekka Kivimäki (@vpkivimaki) January 10, 2020
The aircraft was not flying closer to a military installation than any other previous time, so the mis-identification error is almost inexplicable.
Paths of all #PS752 departures from 2 Nov 2019 to 8 Jan 2020 (45 flights). First image focuses on horizontal position, second image displays vertical position. 8 Jan departure is red line in both images.https://t.co/gUyJmGyyrk pic.twitter.com/NJfTcC6w4N
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) January 11, 2020
Meanwhile new CCTV possibly showing the SAM battery firing its missile has appeared online:
NEW: This CCTV footage appears to show an Iranian air defense system, northeast of Parand, firing a missile. I’ve geolocated it right under the approx. location where we think the missile hit the jet. Date is correct (18 Dey 1398) but time is off (7:48), maybe due to settings. pic.twitter.com/cuoadeEG1y
— Christiaan Triebert (@trbrtc) January 11, 2020
There were 176 passengers and crew on board Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 when it was accidentally shot down on Wednesday by the Iranians. There were no survivors in the crash. Reports say 82 passengers were Iranian, 63 were Canadian citizens, 11 were Ukrainian, 10 from Sweden, 4 from Afghanistan, 3 from Germany and 3 from the United Kingdom.