Did a Ukrainian Air Force Su-25 in effect guide a missile from a Buk missile launcher to Malaysian flight MH17? Did Russian separatists fire at an Su-25 which had dropped down toward the ground after flying as an "escort" and then began climbing back up toward MH17 with the missile on its tail?
[Note: I've delayed posting this because of recent reports attributed to
unnamed American intelligence sources supporting a theory that a
Ukrainian air force plane shot down MH17 after it deviated from the
course. Ukrainian authorities could have interpreted
the different course as an indication of a plane controlled by
terrorists. We will need to watch this theory to see if it
replaces the theory that a Buk missile brought down
MH17. For now the Buk theory seems to provide the best
Russian authorities report that there was an Su-25 approaching MH17
prior to the disaster. “A Ukraine Air Force military jet
was detected gaining height, it’s distance from the Malaysian
Boeing was 3 to 5km [about 3 miles],” the head of the Main
Operations Directorate of the HQ of Russia’s military forces, Lieutenant-General
Andrey Kartopolov told a press conference. Air
Force Lieutenant-General Igor Makushev said the
Ukrainian jet was "scrambling in the direction of the
The Russian descriptions of the Su-25's flight is consistent with a
plane coming up to the MH17 as would have been the case if it had
dropped down to investigate or attack a ground target.
If the Su-25 had merely been escorting MH17 it would have been
flying at a constant height and been matching the speed of the
airliner. It can climb at the rate of 2 miles per minute which
means it could travel from near ground level to an elevation of 3-5
km below the MH17 in a couple of minutes.
Gen. Makushev's use of the word "scramble" is significant because
the term is used to describe the behavior of a pilot getting in
position to deal with a threat. A pilot attempting
to get away from a missile would fly in a similar hurried way.
that "a Youtube video made a month before Malaysia
Airlines Flight 17 was shot down alleges that Ukranian fighter jets were hiding
behind passenger planes, pulling away temporarily, dropping bombs on
Ukrainian separatists, and then hiding again behind the plane. "
reports that Su-27 Flanker jets had been escorting civilian
jets over Ukraine.
If Russian separatists were operating a Buk missile system
that shot down MH17, they likely would have been
inexperienced. They might not have understood the transponder
codes in the radar readout or been too preoccupied with shooting
down the Su-25 to notice MH17. Inexperienced operators would
likely have relied on visual identification of potential targets and
merely used the radar to guide the missile to its target.
Smart guerrilla fighters know to keep the radar turned off unless
they know they have a possible target because the enemy could detect
the electronic signature of the radar. They might have visually
identified the Su-25 and quickly fired without bothering to check to
see if other aircraft were in the area.
Aviation Week reports that the Buk system can have a problem
distinguishing among different potential targets if it doesn't have
the appropriate support equipment.
If the Su-25 was headed toward MH17, the MH17 might have been
mistakenly been targeted or a slight change in course by the Su-25
could have resulted in MH17 becoming the target. I'm not
familiar with the handling characteristics of the Buk missile, but a
missile traveling at 2,000 mph [0.5 miles per second] requires a
significant distance to change directions.
Separatists could have thought the presence of the Su-25's meant the
larger plane was a high value target.
I recognize the possibility that Ukrainian troops might have shot
down MH17 so they could blame the action on Russian separatists,
but it seems unlikely Ukrainian troops would deliberately
have taken a chance on firing at MH17 with their own jets so
close. The site "abovetopsecret"
claims that the U.S has satellite imagery indicating
Ukrainian troops, who may have been fooling around while
drinking, might have launched the missile either by accident or as a
badly timed prank. Blacklisted.com
also supports this scenario. We see this scenario occasionally in
military themed comedy movies or television episodes but don't
expect such things to happen in real life. This plausible scenario
could explain why American authorities started calling the incident
an "accident". In the movies such accidents result in
victims in tattered clothes and apparent soot on exposed skin.
Victims of real . life "accidents" are seldom so fortunate.
Ukrainian and American authorities have accused the Russian
government of providing the Buk launcher to the separatists, but it
isn't unusual for rebel forces to steal
weapons and munitions from the government. Individuals
in government sympathetic to the rebels sometimes aid this process.
Ukrainian separatists likely have agents in the Ukrainian military
like the Viet Cong did in the South Vietnamese army.
Commanders who have had large items stolen might be reluctant to
tell their superiors about their losses. They may lie and say the
stolen items were destroyed. In Vietnam, the Viet Cong
sometimes used stolen weapons against us.
If Russian weapons are being provided, individual commanders,rather
than senior military officials might be responsible.
Individual commanders might occasionally "loan" weapons
to separatists who might be friends or relatives,
Military units sometimes rely on "unofficial actions" in such
situations. In the movies a crusty old 1st sergeant will
take some action he knows his commanding officer wants done, but has
been ordered not to do.
Both Russia and the United States have assisted rebel groups in many
countries in recent decades. The Russian government is
under pressure from friends and relatives of ethnic Russians in
Ukraine to assist the separatists. In the 19th Century the
United States went to war with Mexico to support "separatists"
in Texas and California who wanted independence from