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Identifying Malaysian Airline Shootdown Source May Be Difficult

July 17, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Both Ukraine and Russia employ the suspect missile system.

  • The Buk long-range surface-to-air missile system is capable of shooting down aircraft as high as 82,000 feet altitude and as far away as 30 miles.

The missile system claimed by a Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser to be responsible for the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine is manufactured in Ukraine and is in use by both Ukrainian and Russian military forces. If the missile system is confirmed as the cause of the crash, determining which side fired it could be difficult, especially if Russia provided the type of missile to rebel forces in eastern Ukraine.

In a Facebook post, Anton Gerashchenko blamed a Buk surface-to-air missile (SAM) system for shooting down the Malaysian aircraft. He posted a picture, which since has been removed, of what he claimed was a Buk system on the streets of the eastern Ukraine city of Torez, which is near the crash site.

The Buk is an advanced radar-guided SAM designed by the Soviet military during the Cold War and built in Ukraine. Since the end of the Cold War, Ukraine has continued to build various versions of the Buk known by NATO designations as SA-11 and SA-17, and these have supplied Russia’s military. The United States has acquired them from Ukraine and used them in Red Star air combat exercises over Alaska (SIGNAL Magazine, October 2011, “Pacific Air Over Alaska”).

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