Fatal Screw-Up: How Iranian Missiles Accidentally Shot Down Civilian Ukrainian Plane, Killing 176

466
- Advertisement - [resads_adspot id="2"]

The US, Canadian and British intelligence believe that Iran had shot down a civilian plane.

  • Iran failed to issue a no-fly order before starting the so-called assault on the Yankees
  • Not every one of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Defence Force got the memo that the missile strike against the US bases in Iraq was a staged drama which will not kill anyone
  • They shot down the Ukrainian jet, having mistaken it to be a US military fighter plane

Iran had no intention of killing a single American soldier in what appeared to be a staged attack to save face. As a show of force, the drama would involve firing 22 ballistic missiles at two US military bases in Iraq. To ensure absolutely no American would be harmed, the Iranian deliberately tipped off Iraqi government of incoming missiles, knowing very well the US will be alerted.

But the United States DEFSMAC (Defense Special Missile and Aerospace Center) early warning system had already detected the heat signatures of the Iranian missiles, sending American troops to bunkers. They calculated that it will miss their military bases so nothing was done to intercept the incoming missiles. Iran would declare victory and everybody goes back home happily.

As expected, with some minor damages to the military bases after the missile attacks, none of the 5,000 US troops stationed in Iraq were hurt. US President Donald Trump happily tweeted that “All is well. So far, so good.” Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei proudly declared in a speech broadcast live on state television that “a slap in the face was delivered”.

However, the script had failed to account for human errors. While Iran has succeeded in ensuring no American was harmed to avoid provoking the military superpower United States, they failed to issue a no-fly order before starting the so-called assault on the Yankees. As a result, the Iranians “accidentally” shot down the civilian Ukrainian jet near Tehran, killing all 176 people on board.

The US, in anticipating of the Iranian missile attack, has gotten the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue a no-fly order over Iran and Iraq – hours before the Ukrainian plane was shot down, potentially saving tens or even hundreds of American lives. Yes, the US, Canadian and British intelligence now believe that Iran had shot down a civilian plane.

Ukraine’s embassy in Tehran initially issued a statement agreeing to the Iranian version of the story, that the crash was caused by an engine problem, but subsequently deleted it. Ukrainian officials now say that it’s too early to rule anything out. Canada, who lost 63 of its citizens in the crash, said its intelligence indicates the Ukranian airliner was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.

Mirror

The plane – Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 – was carrying 167 passengers and 9 crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, 4 Afghans and 3 each from Britain and Germany.  It crashed just a few hours after Iran launched a missile attack against Iraqi military bases housing US troops to avenge the assassination of their top general Qassem Soleimani.

President Donald Trump said he believed Iran was responsible for the shoot down and rubbished Iran’s initial claims that it was a mechanical failure with the plane. He said – “It was flying in a pretty rough neighbourhood. Someone could have made a mistake. I have a feeling that – it’s just some very terrible, something very terrible happened, very devastating.”

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Of course, Iran’s head of civil aviation dismissed the reports as “illogical rumours.” But Iranian authorities’ refusal to allow the standard kind of collaborative investigation that normally takes place whenever a civilian aircraft suffers a serious accident has added fuel to suspicions that the country was indeed hiding something.

While Boeing has been plagued with its 737 MAX twin crashes, a Boeing 737-800 jet like the one operated by Ukraine International Airlines is among the most reliable in the world. Furthermore, the 737-800 was delivered new to Ukrainian International Airlines in 2016, not to mention the plane had been serviced only two days before the unfortunate crash.

The three crew members who were flying the Flight PS752 were also relatively experienced, including pilot Vladimir Gaponenko who has logged 11,600 flying hours. Even if it’s true that the aircraft experienced an unexplainable engine problem as alleged by Iran, a catastrophic engine would not turn the entire jet into a fireball, as some photos have shown.

In fact, the other engine would enable the plane to continue flying even if one of the engines failed. In an April 2018 accident involving Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, while the jet was flying above 30,000 feet on its way from New York to Dallas, the plane’s left engine exploded after one of its fan blades broke off. Pilot Tammie Jo Shults safely landed the plane in Philadelphia – even with only one engine.

AP

In the cockpit, woman pilot Tammie calmly radioed air traffic controllers in Philadelphia to discuss her approach and option as the flight was carrying injured passengers and needed emergency medics on the ground. But in the case of the Ukrainian 737-800, it climbed to an altitude of 7,900 feet, but then inexplicably plummeted to the ground, without any radio call for help from the pilots.

The inability of the pilots of Flight PS752 to make a single radio call suggests that the problem was much bigger – and definitely unexpected – than an engine malfunction. They were trying to turn back to the airport because the entire plane was burning down very quickly. Eyewitnesses, including the crew of another flight passing above, described seeing the plane engulfed in flames before crashing.

Assuming both engines caught fire at the same time, which is very unlikely, the plane will lose power, but it can still glide for a considerable distance under pilot control. However, in a video released by state-run Iranian media, the plane was descending in flames very fast to the ground – in a manner like it had lost its wing. And you don’t need a rocket scientist to tell how a wing could malfunction.

The New York Times, CNN and Guardian posted a video on Thursday it said has been verified showing the moment the apparent missile struck the plane over Iran. The video shows a fast-moving object rising before a fiery explosion. To make matters worse for Iran, Breaking Aviation News shared a photo of what it said was a “missile head” at the crash site.

Daily Mail

It certainly didn’t help Iran that its authorities have said they will not share the airplane’s black box containing flight data and cockpit voice recorder, which they recovered after the crash, to plane manufacturer Boeing for investigation. Transparency is almost non-existent in Iran and they have no intention of a joint collaboration, especially when all pointers suggest that an Iranian missile hit the plane.

But how did the Iranians shoot down a civilian plane, assuming it was an accident? After President Trump warned that the US military would hit 52 targets in Iran – “very fast and very hard” – if the country attacks American assets in retaliation for the assassination of General Soleimani, naturally Iranian air-defence forces would have been on high alert.

The obvious target would be Tehran, the nation’s capital. But not every one of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Defence Force got the memo that the missile strike against the US bases in Iraq was a staged drama which will not kill anyone. Fearful of an American air assault, they shot down the Ukrainian jet, having mistaken it to be a US military fighter plane.

US intelligence said it is confident that Iran painted the Ukrainian airliner with radar and fired two surface-to-air missiles that brought down the aircraft. The US official said that an American spy satellite and other military sensors had detected the heat signature of the two missiles as they approached the Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752.

Heck, the US has also identified that the missiles were fired from an Iranian air defence system called the SA-15 “Gauntlet”, a TOR missile system developed by Russia. It is used against aircraft, helicopters, UAVs, various missiles and precision-guided munitions. In 2007, Russia delivered 29 TOR-M1s to Iran as part of a US$700 million deal signed on Dec 2005, and Iran has displayed them in military parades.

Raheb Homavandi/Reuters

While it’s a huge humiliation for Iran to admit that it had accidentally hit a commercial plane, such incident happened before. On July 3, 1988, Iran Air Flight 655 was shot down – accidentally – while on its flight from Tehran to Dubai via Bandar Abbas. The aircraft, an Airbus A300, was destroyed and all 290 people on board, including 66 children, were killed.

The  USS Vincennes, a guided-missile cruiser of the United States Navy, fired an SM-2MR surface-to-air missile after mistakenly identified the Iran Air jet as an attacking F-14 Tomcat, a US-made jet fighter that had been part of the Iranian Air Force inventory since the 1970s. Vincennes claimed it had made 10 attempts to contact the aircraft on both military and civilian radio frequencies – but had received no response.

In a 1996 settlement at the International Court of Justice between the United States and Iran, the US government agreed to pay US$61.8 million on an ex-gratia basis, but did not admit legal liability or formally apologize to Iran. The shoot down, the deadliest aviation disaster involving an Airbus A300, also saw then-President Reagan expressed deep regret to the Iranian government.

To prove its innocence, Iran has no choice but to allow a joint investigation involving all parties affected by the crash. As no American was on board the plane, Iran would not lose too much face by reaching out to the people of Canada, Britain, Ukraine and others to express regret – if indeed they didn’t fire the missile which killed all the 176 people.

Interestingly, the latest Iranian screw-up has brought back the memory of a similar incident where Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile (SA-11 “Gadfly”) while it was flying over Ukraine in 2014. For now, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei can forget about his revenge. He has a bigger problem to solve. – Finance Twitter