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I'm replying to Dagger but didn't want to unnecessarily quote his entire post in which he reasonably maintained that Iran would not INTENTIONALLY shootdown this airliner except in error.

I am a cynic. I believe ( regrettably) that people will engage in otherwise irrational acts in the belief that by so doing, they will advance a cause; " a greater good". I also believe that there is general acceptance of the principle of acceptable casualties in war; we will sacrifice troops knowing they are being deployed to certain death in order to give credence to a feint that increases the likelihood of a successful manoever.

Those two "principles" are invoked in the world of geo-politics but without attribution.


I was aware that the Ukrainian flight had been held on the ground for an hour and was then cleared. This was NOT an unexpected departure.


Khomeini made specific reference to the downing of a commercial aircraft in response to Trump's comments regarding the embassy hostage deaths.

Now...imagine....Canada provided the intelligence of Suleiman's agenda for the controlled militias in Iraq ( and elsewhere) to the US. The US found that intelligence to be credible though the targets were not clear. It was an ambiguous report but only in regards to the specifics.


The US responded and eliminated Suleiman. The Iranians...who are no fools...quickly determined that "other" intelligence agencies were involved. How best to convey their understanding in a way that would be unequivocal to that secret " nether world"? 

The shootdown would make it clear that "cost" was irrelevant....they WOULD respond without fear to perceived or actual threat. And the message was understood.

And now the US administration is left fumbling trying to explain the nature and source of its intelligence that a terrorist threat was imminent.

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Absolutely this was intentional. 

How can there be any doubt... straight out climb on the departure path from the international airport. Several departures before it - cargo and ME countries.

Iran and the Ayatollah with Russian hardware into a plane of Canadians and Iranian-Canadians going to Canada, plus a handful of Ukranians and other Westerners...  

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If they did this intentionally, then they appear to have severely underestimated the internal outrage it would create. The regime has been facing turmoil for a while now and if they thought they’d distract it, they were dead wrong. 

I’m more inclined to believe it was a tragic accident, not unlike the Vincennes shoot down of the Iranian A300.

Edited by J.O.
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About a quarter of the way down this article there are very interesting comments from a retired Canadian Colonel about air defence systems and managing them in the presence of civilian aircraft.  As are the questions at the bottom.

I don’t have any military background.  For those that do do his comments and questions sound reasonable?



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1 hour ago, Turbofan said:

I don’t have any military background.  For those that do do his comments and questions sound reasonable

Absolutely, but unfortunately there is the old adage...The Fog of War...

As far as USA knowing what was going on with respect to missiles/aircraft  etc......yes. I was based in Colorado Springs  a few decades ago and I can tell you that even back then the US had the best and biggest air/space surveillance system in the world  and over the course of the passing years we can assume that their system is even better. At one point it was demonstrated that their equipment could pick out an individual reading a newspaper and see the paper's headlines. There are a lot of intelligence gathering systems very accurate and fully operational in the Cheyenne Mountain complex........but as you know, the information that is "leaked" from that and other US  sites will only be leaked if it does not reflect badly on the USA.

IMO, the airport should have been closed, at least until day light, but pressure to get the job done, (the flight), may have over ruled common sense of those responsible for "counting the airlines beans".



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22 hours ago, Kip Powick said:


IMO, the airport should have been closed, at least until day light, but pressure to get the job done, (the flight), may have over ruled common sense of those responsible for "counting the airlines beans".



Also, I wonder how much the Ukrainian SOC equivalent in Kiev understood the situation. And what pressure might the crew have felt to go ahead with the flight. UIA isn't the epitome of financial health, and you have to wonder if another airline - say, LH which was flying to Tehran but has suspended ops there - would have reacted had they had a flight going out around then

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From the Asian Times:

Iran keeps concocting fake news on downed jet


Iran continues to tell false and deliberately misleading stories about the downing of Ukrainian Airline’s Flight PS-752, including the story that a nervous missile operator “with only six seconds” to decide, mistakenly shot down the jet. Tehran says the operator thought he was shooting at a cruise missile.

Every modern air defense system consists of at least three parts: the missile firing unit that contains the air defense missiles; an acquisition radar that searches a broad area to provide early warning of threats; and, an engagement radar that acquires the target and helps guide the missile.

The Russian-made Tor, which is the system that US intelligence thinks was used to blow up PS-752, uses both types of radars. The system has a modern digital command and control system and an IFF (identification friend or foe) system all sitting on a tracked vehicle. The complete package is known as a TLAR, transporter, launcher and radar. Iran bought 21 Tor systems in 2007.A radar operator cannot just push a button and launch a missile. It takes at least a full minute, sometimes a minute and a half or more, to ready the missile for firing. At a minimum, the target information has to be connected to one or more air defense missiles and the gyros of the missiles have to be spun up. The story that the operator had only six seconds is not credible. Even the more modern Pansir, S-300 and S-400 (all Russian built) require one to two minutes to get ready for launch.

Furthermore, a missile operator is not authorized to fire a missile unless he gets permission from his commander who usually is not physically located in the TLAR.

Iran claims there was no communication back to headquarters so they fired without authorization. No solider, no matter how dumb, would risk the possibility of being shot by firing squad for not getting authorization to launch a missile.

PS-752 took off at 6:11.54 from Tehran’s international airport. Three minutes later, at the last point of contact, the 737 was at 8,000 feet – nowhere near the normal operating altitude of a cruise missile. Any decent radar would have tracked it from shortly after takeoff until it was destroyed. A missile fired at the airplane would take around 10 seconds to hit it, so we can say its radar image would have been available to the Tor missile defense system for almost the entire three minutes.

The Tor acquisition radar has a range of about 25 kilometers, which means that if there really was a cruise missile on the way, it would have been identified as a target some distance away. The area to the west and south of Tehran is flat affording radar a good long-range view (to the west there are mountains, but Iran would never expect a US strike from that direction). The Tor is optimized against low flying threats such as cruise missiles, so the radar should have been good enough to give a warning of around five to 10 minutes.

The radar return of a cruise missile like the Tomahawk, the only cruise missile in the US arsenal capable of hitting Tehran, is small compared to that of a commercial jetliner. A jet’s radar blip would be five times bigger than a Tomahawk, which is not a stealth platform. It has a wingspan of less than nine feet compared with 112 feet for a 737-800.

PS-752 was climbing after takeoff. Modern radars can determine altitude, and the fact that PS-752 was climbing was prima facie evidence that it was not a Tomahawk, which flies at about 50 feet off the ground. The Tomahawk usually tries to “hide” in radar clutter and natural cover like hills and mountains, even tall buildings. The operator would have to be incredibly stupid to mistake the climbing flight path of a commercial jet with the level flight path of a cruise missile. The operator had minutes to figure out the difference.

The Ukrainian Airlines flight was equipped with a radar transponder that broadcasts an enhanced radar blip t0 identify the plane and provide other information for air traffic controllers. Why would a Russian-built air defense system with IFF not discriminate automatically between commercial and military jets, particularly if the TLAR was installed close to a large commercial airport?  If it could not make that distinction, the IFF would be of poor quality and not trustworthy.

Russia has a profusion of air defense systems (including Tor) clustered around Moscow, which has three important international airports – Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo and Vnukovo. It is almost impossible to believe the Russians have not tuned their air defense systems to disregard commercial aviation operations. So why can’t the Iranians do that, or have the Russians sold them a degraded export version of Tor?

The Iranian arguments don’t pass muster and are misleading, intentionally so. By putting the blame on some low-level missile defense operator, the authorizing officials avoid responsibility. By blaming bad communications, they insulate themselves from even knowing what was taking place. By making up more stories based on purposefully misleading and wrong information, they prove they are not even clever enough to concoct something more convincing.

Now there are protests in Iran calling for Khameini’s resignation. The protesters understand false narratives and are angry that so many needlessly died, including 82 Iranians and 63 Canadian citizens of which at least 57 were of Iranian origin.

Unbelievably, the Iranians have arrested the British Ambassador to Iran, Rob Macaire, for allegedly directing “radical” actions in the protests. This has created a firestorm of complaints from the UK, and Macaire was released not long after he was arrested. The protests continue.

This attack on PS-752 was no accident. It was a criminal act that must have been authorized by the Revolutionary Guard force that runs Tehran’s missile defenses.   https://www.asiatimes.com/2020/01/opinion/iran-keeps-concocting-fake-news-on-downed-jet/

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TSB's role in the investigation of Ukrainian Airlines flight 752 Français


Transportation Safety Board of Canada 

Jan 13, 2020, 14:00 ET

OTTAWA, Jan. 13, 2020 /CNW/ - Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) Chair Kathy Fox today provided an update on the TSB's role in the investigation of Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752 in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran.

Since learning of the accident, the TSB has been in direct contact with the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Given the high number of Canadian fatalities, the TSB has confirmed its role as an expert and accepted Iran's invitation to attend the accident site as entitled in Annex 13 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation. Two TSB air accident investigators left Canada on Friday evening and, over the weekend, met up with members of the Canadian consular team in Turkey. They have since obtained visas to travel to Iran and have departed for Tehran, along with members of Canada's Consular team. Additionally, the TSB will also deploy a second team of investigators with expertise in aircraft recorder download and analysis, once the time and place that this activity will take place is confirmed.

"As 57 of the passengers who died in this tragedy were Canadian, it is our hope that the TSB will be allowed to bring more of its expertise to a thorough and transparent investigation," said Kathy Fox. "The TSB is seen as a world leader, and we have participated in foreign investigations for almost 30 years. […] As an independent accident investigation agency, we will also collaborate with the other international investigation authorities with whom we have long-standing and well-developed relationships—including those from France, Sweden, the UK and the US, as well as Ukraine."

Aviation accident and incident investigations are governed by Annex 13 to the Convention of International Civil Aviation. As the "State of Occurrence", the Islamic Republic of Iran and, specifically, its Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB), has the right to lead the safety investigation. The role of states with a special interest  by virtue of fatalities,  serious injuries or other direct interests, which includes Canada, is also similarly prescribed. As the lead investigation agency, the Iranian AAIB is also responsible for communicating information about the progress and results of the investigation.

"The purpose of an ICAO Annex 13 safety investigation is to find all causal and contributing factors to an accident, without attributing blame or civil or criminal liability, to address safety deficiencies, and prevent similar accidents from happening again," said Kathy Fox. "Experience has shown that a thorough safety-focused investigation offers the best chance of confirming what really happened and providing the answers that everyone is asking for, particularly for the families who lost so much."

See the backgrounder on foreign air occurrence investigations for more information.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

The TSB is online at www.tsb.gc.ca. Keep up to date through RSS, Twitter (@TSBCanada), YouTube, Flickr and our blog.

SOURCE Transportation Safety Board of Canada

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Claim plane was accidentally shot down won't be taken at 'face value': TSB

Published Monday, January 13, 2020 3:43PM ESTLast Updated Monday, January 13, 2020 4:08PM EST

OTTAWA -- There is "no doubt" that the Ukrainian plane that crashed in Tehran, killing all of its 176 passengers, was brought down by a surface-to-air missile, according to the chair of Canada's Transportation Safety Board.

What remains to be seen, according to Kathy Fox, is whether the aircraft was shot down on purpose.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Fox confirmed that Iran’s admission that a surface-to-air missile brought down the plane was accurate.


her it was accidental or intentional, that is something that investigators would normally pursue," said TSB Chair Kathy Fox.

Despite Iran's contention that it was an accident, Fox said the investigators are keeping every option on the table.

"We don't take that just at face value. We need to corroborate that, validate that information through other means," Fox said.

She said the investigators need to determine whether it was an accident or not through an investigation of the sequence of events. In the case that it's found to be an accident, she said that the context of such a "tragic mistake" will need to be determined in order to prevent it from happening again.

The TSB chair said she has been speaking with the Dutch authorities who led the investigation into the MH17 crash – a flight that was shot down by a Russian missile while flying over Ukraine.

Fox said Canada has two investigators landing in Tehran Monday to investigate the crash site. She added that a second Canadian team of two investigators, charged with probing the black box recordings, will be deployed once a time and place for that investigation is confirmed.

"I can tell you that the recorders are still in Iran. I can tell you that they are damaged," said Fox.

Fox said that the black boxes might be transported outside of Iran for their analysis, given the technical challenges involved with accessing the data in a damaged recorder. She added that while Iran is leading the investigation and Canada is participating as an expert, which limits Canadian access, Iran is already going beyond what it is required to do by giving Canada access to the black box recordings.

Speaking in French, Fox said "these are encouraging signs" in terms of the level of access Iran plans to afford to the Canadian investigators.

Regardless of whether Canada's role in the investigation, Fox seemed sure of one thing – that the answers won't be found anytime soon.

"This is not going to be a short investigation," Fox said. "This is going to take time, to answer all the questions."

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I doubt we'll ever know how many layers exist between the missile crew and the general at the very top of the Revolutionary Guard. Part of the generalized assumption that this must have been an error is that the regime as a whole had nothing to gain and everything to lose by shooting down the plane. They had actually stalemated Trump by using ballistic missiles fired from Iran proper - a first involving the US presence in Iraq - and it's clear that Trump, despite his bellicosity, is not eager to get into a bigger conflict. Now, the regime which had some modest success rallying some elements of the general population over Soleiman's death is being widely denounced - even criticized by some of its usual conservative backers - for lying about the incident. 

There only reason in my opinion why the regime would have approved of downing the plane would have been if there was someone or something on board so dangerous to the survival of the regime or defence of the country that it would be worth the cost. Presumably, the US or others would have let it be known by now if there was such a person on board the plane since the identities of everyone are pretty much known. And they could have detained that person at passport control, or refused to allow the plane to leave, etc. So it's almost inconceivable that the plane's destruction came on orders of the top layers of regime command. As you move down the food chain to the person or persons responsible for letting the missiles fly, you get into the realms of training, sanity, mind conditioning (a fanatic who believes God is commanding his actions, etc). 

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Ultimately, "on-purpose / by accident" must be settled on evidence both physical and circumstantial. The Forbes OpEd argues that the shoot-down was accidental.

We'll see how the TSB investigation says when it comes out.






Jan 12, 2020, 08:47am

Ukraine International Flight PS 752: A Shakespearean Tragedy?

, Contributor

Aerospace & Defense

I view today’s defense & aerospace issues using history as a prism.

IMAGE_KYIV REGION, UKRAINE - JANUARY 8, 2020 - Employees of the Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The past couple of weeks have played out like some macabre adaption of the Bard’s greatest works. The opening scene was the attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad by Iranian backed militias recruited, trained and directed by Major General Qasem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).  

The attack on the Embassy was in response to the seemingly never-ending cycle of violence in the Middle East. The militias had attacked Kirkuk airbase and killed an American contractor and the US responded by launching airstrikes on militia facilities in both Iraq and Syria, killing some 25 militia personnel. The Embassy attack came directly after a funeral for those killed in the airstrikes and it is still uncertain if the assault was pre-planned or simply a violent extension of the mourning.

The IRGC, however, must have calculated that the US has something of a trigger-point when it comes to Embassy attacks: the bombing of the Beirut Embassy in 1983 and the hostage taking in Iran in 1979 still linger long in the corporate memory. The latter, although not resulting in US casualties, was seen as a key factor in President Carter’s election loss in 1980 and 2020 is, after all, an election year. The parallels are important to consider.

IMAGE_American hostages arrive at Wiesbaden Air Base in West Germany after being released from the US Getty Images

In response, the main act of the Tragedy was the precision strike by a UAV on General Soleimani’s convoy near Baghdad airport. Exactly as per the script, the General was killed along with many in his security detail and little/no collateral damage inflicted. Revenge was inflicted by the forces of ‘good’ and the ‘villains’ retreated to lick their wounds and consider their next step. 

The third act, and one that many observers fervently hoped was also the denouement, was the retaliatory missile strike on US bases in Iraq. The IRGC carefully calibrated this attack; a significant number of ballistic missiles were fired to look good on the domestic newsreels but launched at a time when most personnel would be in bed and not vulnerable in the open. Furthermore, the use of ballistic missiles rather than militia-fired rockets is in itself telling: the rocket plumes and trajectories of ballistic weapons are eminently observable by satellites fitted with specialist sensors that detect the rocket motor and by ground/ship based Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) radars. These systems enabled sufficient warning to be provided for personnel to get into cover. 

There is also the rumour that the IRGC tipped off elements of the Iraqi forces, who, in turn either deliberately or via behavioural change, would have cued the US forces that something was afoot. If the militias had used closer range systems, such as 122mm rockets, then warning time is significantly reduced. 

I’ve had the ‘pleasure’ of being on the receiving end of both ballistic missile and short-range rocket attack; with the former, the warning was sufficient to seek hardened protection and wait. With the latter, there is barely time to roll out of bed and pull the ‘Kevlar duvet’ over oneself before the explosions start. Therefore, the use of ballistic missiles was, in my opinion, a very carefully judged attempt at de-escalation by the IRGC and elements of the Iranian regime. Enough to assuage hurt pride and the embarrassment of so easily losing a senior commander, but not violent enough to invite further US retaliation. 

Like so many Tragedies, both Shakespearean and more modern, the tale then features a dramatic twist. When I first heard reports of a Ukrainian International Airlines aircraft, Flight PS752, crashing near Tehran, I, like many of my defense and aviation colleagues, instinctively thought it was an accident with a bizarre timing coincidence. The initial photographs of the wreckage appeared to confirm the hypothesis that it was an uncontained engine failure, leading to catastrophic break-up of the engine on the wing.

When a turbofan engine disintegrates, the turbine blades can break up and create a cloud of high energy, high temperature fragments. These fragments can puncture the fuselage, leaving shrapnel-like damage, and cut control systems as well as hydraulic and fuel lines. 

Such an uncontained failure was the primary cause behind the Sioux City DC-10 crash in 1989, and, more recently, to a Southwest Airlines 737-700, Flight 1380, in April 2018. This latter incident was my unconscious confirmation bias for Flight PS752, which was a similar 737-800 series aircraft. In the Southwest incident, the engine exploded causing fragment damage to the fuselage, an explosive decompression in the cabin and resulted in the partial extraction through a broken window of a passenger who, sadly, later died from her injuries. 

My imagined sequence, therefore, for Flight PS752 was a catastrophic engine failure, loss of cabin pressure, possible loss of flight controls and a crew struggling desperately to save a wounded aircraft and, ultimately, failing.

IMAGE_ PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 17: In this National Transportation Safety Board handout, NTSB investigator 2018 NTSB

Why did I not assume it was a Surface to Air Missile attack? I just couldn’t see how an Air Defence battery could mistake an airliner departing a major international airport on an established Standard Instrument Departure (SID) and ‘squawking’ an allocated IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) transponder code for a threat. 

The ‘squawk’ is important. All aircraft operating in Controlled Airspace are allocated a discrete transponder code to aid Air Traffic Controllers to identify, track, deconflict and control aircraft. As the radar beam passes over the aircraft, the transponder is triggered to respond with both the 4-digit code, and also, if Mode ‘Charlie’ is selected, a read-back of the aircraft’s current altitude above mean sea level. Military SAM radars also have an IFF Interrogator which can distinguish civil ‘squawks’ and, using appropriate cryptographical codes, determine which military aircraft are friendly and which are potential threats. 

Therefore, if fitted with such a simple method of determining ‘friend’ from ‘foe’ why did the SAM battery open fire? At the top level, it’s either a deliberate act or a tragic mistake.

IMAGE_ Russian Tor-M2U surface-to-air missile system, known as the SA-15 Gauntlet by NATO, and similar to. ASSOCIATED PRESS

I don’t buy into the deliberate act hypothesis. What would be the regime’s motive for committing such a heinous crime? If we assume that the ballistic missile strike was calibrated to draw a line under recent events, then there would be little to gain politically by shooting down an airliner and inflaming tension yet again. Furthermore, if the regime wanted to send a message to the US and its allies, why select an airliner from a non-aligned country, full of 3rd party nationals and your own? The world is very sensitive when it comes to attacking airliners; they are patently non-combatants and much of the world’s trade depends upon them receiving safe passage, free from interference. 

Any sympathy that Iran may have accrued as a result of onerous US sanctions and the assassination of a top military officer will inevitably diminish or evaporate as a result of this act. The evident dislocation that the regime suffered trying to respond to the incident is also telling — there appeared to be significant confusion over what had happened. They genuinely did seem to be ignorant of the role of the IRGC in the incident in the immediate aftermath. One can only imagine the horror at discovering their culpability. 

There does remain a lingering possibility that someone at a senior level in the IRGC felt that Soleimani’s death had not been adequately avenged by the missile strikes. Ordering the shootdown of a foreign airliner seems an odd way of expressing such bloodlust given that the IRGC employ proxy militias all over the region and have extensive low-tech threats that can challenge and attack shipping in the North Arabian Gulf. Regimes such as Iran also tend to deal harshly with commanders who go ‘off message’ – it would take someone very senior to calculate they could make such a move and survive the consequences.

Therefore, in my opinion, the principle of Hanlon’s razor applies here. It was not a calculated, malicious act, but a tragic mistake, effected at the lowest unit level. But why?

To understand ‘how’ if not ‘why’ it’s important to put oneself in the position of the SAM Battery crew. The current ‘official’ position from the IRGC is that the airliner was approaching a ‘sensitive site’. This statement is informative. The IRGC would have been informed, at a senior level, of the missile strikes. Doubtless, as any sensible military organisation would do, they would have likely, tacitly, informed their missile crews that the possibility of a US strike would be higher than normal that night – therefore, there is the distinct possibility that the SAM Battery was on an enhanced state of alertness.

Anyone that has studied the ‘Western Art of War’ will understand that the Suppression or Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (S/DEAD) is a key battlespace shaping activity to permit NATO aircraft to operate at greater freedom. Therefore, sitting in a SAM Battery radar or command and control vehicle has the effect of placing a target on one’s forehead. The shootdown of an RAF Tornado GR1 by a US Patriot missile system during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 was caused by the failure of the Tornado’s military Mode 4 IFF and the flight profile as it recovered to Ali Air Salem airbase closely approximating that of an Anti-Radiation Missile (ARM). The Patriot crew, understandably nervous they were being targeted, acted under self defense. 

There is a credible theory that the Iranian SAM battery, tasked with protecting a sensitive IRGC site, as well as guarding Tehran itself, and already on a heightened state of alert, suddenly detected a target on their screens as it climbed into the radar horizon. Doubtless, IRGC SAM batteries are briefed to expect ‘pop up’ attacks deep in their own airspace from B2 Spirit stealth bombers. What we don’t know is the Command and Control chain influence upon permission to fire, nor the extant rules of engagement.

Most Middle Eastern countries, due to their largely conscripted armies and fears over reliability, have highly centralised command structures, requiring a high-level commander to approve weapon release. Indeed, this very convoluted firing chain has been successfully exploited by Allied and Israeli air forces over recent campaigns. The IRGC are, presumably, considered more reliable and politically pure. Learning from the experience of other Middle Eastern countries, they may well have granted a higher level of autonomy to individual battery commanders, especially in a potential ‘use it or lose it’ situation against a radar picture that is within the parameters of an expected ARM attack delivered by a Low Observable platform. 

In such circumstances, only a few seconds are available for appreciation, decision and action. It is analogous to a cop shooting a suspect dead thinking he’s reaching for a weapon, only to find they were trying to get their phone out of their pocket. Pressure, fear and expectation are all powerful drivers.

The remaining mystery is the IFF. Most SAM systems have IFF interlocks of some sort on the firing system – helping to prevent ‘blue on blue’ engagements. The ATC radar trace, if released, will show if PS752’s transponder was working correctly. There remains a possibility that the crew were changing squawks as part of the SID prior to handover to another ATC agency, or, in doing so, had inadvertently left the transponder in ‘Standby’ mode rather than reselecting it ‘On’ (it is common practice in aviation to select the transponder to Standby whilst changing squawks to avoid inadvertently cycling through an emergency squawk code and causing ATC to react). However, the most obvious point of technical failure in the SAM unit is the IFF interrogator.

Sadly, the most obvious point of ultimate failure remains the SAM crew. Despite increasing automation, over 80% of all air accidents are still caused by Human Error. We are imperfect machines. Perhaps the crew were tired, on edge and startled by the sudden appearance of a target seemingly matching an expected threat system. Perhaps they were scared. Perhaps they were still angry at the loss of a senior commander. Perhaps the IFF interrogator was defective - perhaps they never even checked it. For whatever reason, ultimately, they took the shot.

They will now have to live with the consequences of that fatal decision. Like all flawed heroes and tragic villains in Shakespeare’s work they will suffer the fate that’s due – and one that will inevitably be unforgiving in order to provide the necessary closure to all of the injured parties.

I served 23 years in the RAF as a helicopter pilot, flying the CH47 Chinook in, inter alia, The Former Yugoslavia, Kosovo and both Iraq and Afghanistan – logging nearly 1000 combat hours during operational deployments. I specialised in tactical training and development, electronic warfare, operational test & evaluation and procurement – the latter as the Capability manager for the Chinook, responsible for buying new systems to help my friends and colleagues stay safe on the front line. After leaving the military I established my own consultancy company, Ascalon (named after St George’s legendary sword), where I provide independent advice to Industry, NATO and Governments, as well as Systems Engineering support to major defence projects. History has been my lifelong passion, and I try to asses today’s aviation and defense challenges with an eye to historical context. When not writing for Forbes, I’m a contributing editor to the Heli-Ops family of magazines.

  • ©2020 Forbes Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.




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Hanlon's razor?  I must have been asleep during that class

From Wikipedia

Earlier attributions to the idea (Hanlon's Razor) go back to at least the 18th century.[ First published in German (1774) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote in The Sorrows of Young Werther (as translated):

Misunderstandings and lethargy perhaps produce more wrong in the world than deceit and malice do. At least the latter two are certainly rarer.[


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Hi Specs, yeah - the article struck me as someone trying to put an academic blush on the writing and got a well-known notion wrong.

Also, the author says:


There remains a possibility that the crew were changing squawks as part of the SID prior to handover to another ATC agency, or, in doing so, had inadvertently left the transponder in ‘Standby’ mode rather than reselecting it ‘On’ (it is common practice in aviation to select the transponder to Standby whilst changing squawks to avoid inadvertently cycling through an emergency squawk code and causing ATC to react).

Even retired twelve years, I think I can say this statement is out of date. IIRC, we stopped going to STBY decades ago as the "7700" issue was dealt with. Also, I think many a/c, (don't know about the B737-800 specifically), use the air-ground state to activate/de-activate the transponder. Also, we just don't "change squwaks at FIR boundarys or waypoints without specific ATC requests. The article struck me as a bit presumptuous and "puffed-up".

That said, the "accidental" theory is one that demands examination if only because, so far, there is no reasoned/reasonable theory with evidence yet that supports intentional shoot-down.

Edited by Don Hudson
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Bloomberg News
Boeing Mocked Lion Air Calls for More 737 Max Training Before Crash
By Ryan Beene and Harry Suhartono

13 January 2020, 18:55 GMT-8 Updated on 14 January 2020, 08:36 GMT-8
•    House panel confirms Indonesia carrier asked about simulators
•    Unclear if added training would have averted 737 Max crashes
Boeing Persuaded Lion to Drop Simulator Training for 737 Max

Indonesia’s Lion Air considered putting its pilots through simulator training before flying the Boeing Co. 737 Max but abandoned the idea after the planemaker convinced them in 2017 it was unnecessary, according to people familiar with the matter and internal company communications.

The next year, 189 people died when a Lion Air 737 Max plunged into the Java Sea, a disaster blamed in part on inadequate training and the crew’s unfamiliarity with a new flight-control feature on the Max that malfunctioned.
Boeing employees had expressed alarm among themselves over the possibility that one of the company’s largest customers might require its pilots to undergo costly simulator training before flying the new 737 model, according to internal messages that have been released to the media. Those messages, included in the more than 100 pages of internal Boeing communications that the company provided to lawmakers and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and released widely on Thursday, had Lion Air’s name redacted.
But the the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee provided excerpts of those messages to Bloomberg News that un-redacted the Indonesian carrier’s name.

“Now friggin Lion Air might need a sim to fly the MAX, and maybe because of their own stupidity. I’m scrambling trying to figure out how to unscrew this now! idiots,” one Boeing employee wrote in June 2017 text messages obtained by the company and released by the House committee.

In response, a Boeing colleague replied: “WHAT THE F%$&!!!! But their sister airline is already flying it!”

That was an apparent reference to Malindo Air, the Malaysian-based carrier that was the first to fly the Max commercially.

Doing simulator training would have undercut a critical selling point of the jet: that airlines would be able to allow crews trained on an older 737 version to fly the Max after just a brief computer course.

In a report on the Oct. 29, 2018 accident, Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee cited a failure by Boeing to tell pilots about the new flight-control feature on the jet, called MCAS, and the need to provide training on it so that pilots would be able to better respond to malfunctions.
The report also cited shortfalls in the crew’s ability to perform emergency check lists, fly the plane manually and communicate about the emergency. The copilot, who took nearly four minutes to look up an emergency procedure he was supposed to have memorized, was singled out for repeated failures during training.

The 737 Max was grounded worldwide last March after an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed following a similar MCAS malfunction.

To be sure, simulator training that didn’t address a malfunction of the system like the one crews in both disasters encountered might not have saved the jets. Separate decisions had been made not to inform pilots about MCAS, something that has drawn sharp criticism from pilots’ unions in the U.S.

But the prospect of simulator training for Max pilots -- and opposition to it within Boeing -- were major themes in the latest batch of embarrassing internal company messages released last week.

U.S. Representative Pete DeFazio, chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that is investigating the 737 Max, said the probe has found “more and more evidence of how far Boeing was willing to go in order to essentially cloak MCAS in secrecy from MAX pilots while also downplaying the information it shared about MCAS with federal regulators. That’s incredibly damning, and is opposite of Boeing’s repeated insistence that safety drives its decisions.”

Lion Air has declined to comment whether it was the carrier discussed in the messages released last week by Boeing but people familiar with the exchanges, who asked not to be identified discussing a private matter, said Lion Air had initially raised concerns about the need for simulator training on the Max but ultimately accepted Boeing’s recommendation that it was unnecessary.

Some of the messages revealed the pressure on employees -- and customers -- to avoid the additional training. Boeing’s resistance to simulator training for Lion Air pilots was reported earlier by Forbes.

Boeing didn’t respond to a request for comment but said last week that “any potential safety deficiencies identified in the documents have been addressed.”

“These documents do not represent the best of Boeing,” Greg Smith, the company’s interim CEO, said in a message to employees Friday. “The tone and language of the messages are inappropriate, particularly when used in discussion of such important matters, and they do not reflect who we are as a company or the culture we’ve created.”

Technical Pilot
The communications include a 2017 email from Boeing’s chief technical pilot on the 737 in which he crowed to colleagues: “Looks like my jedi mind trick worked again!” The email was sent two days after the earlier messages expressing alarm about Lion Air potentially demanding simulator training.

Attached was a forwarded email exchange in which the person warned an unnamed recipient against offering simulator training for Max pilots, pushing instead for the computer-based course that regulators had already approved for flight crews transitioning to the Max from earlier 737 models.

“I am concerned that if [redacted] chooses to require a Max simulator for its pilots beyond what all other regulators are requiring that it will be creating a difficult and unnecessary training burden for your airline, as well as potentially establish a precedent in your region for other Max customers,” the Boeing pilot wrote in the forwarded message.

While Lion Air was not identified in the redacted emails, the discussions are consistent with those Boeing held with Lion Air at the time, according to people familiar with the matter.

“The story always comes back to the same thing: that Boeing was advancing the sale of this plane to capture market share, to capture the profits and cash flow that goes with it, and safety was treated as something that would occur without a great deal of focus,” said Robert Clifford, a Chicago lawyer who has sued Boeing on behalf of victims of the Ethiopian Airlines crash. “That’s just never the case in engineering.”

— With assistance by Alan Levin, Julie Johnsson, and Peter Robison
(Updates with lawmaker comments in the 13th paragraph, crash-victims’ lawyers in last paragraph.)


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3 hours ago, Don Hudson said:

The initial photographs of the wreckage appeared to confirm the hypothesis that it was an uncontained engine failure, leading to catastrophic break-up of the engine on the wing.

Not sure what photos the author looked at but the first photos I saw contained this photo and as soon as I saw it, I felt it was a missile....all because of the bow-tie puncture on the nacelle. I have read all the documentation, diagrams, and video animation  where the Dutch investigators followed the Russian launcher and proved it was the one that brought down the airliner and part of "proof" was the bow tie shrapnel that punched holes in the aircraft, near the port engine and cockpit area. I am pretty sure that when investigators "rebuild" the aircraft they will come to the same conclusion, which is rather a moot point seeing Iran has confessed. 


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This strike was likely deliberate. The competing factions within the Islamic regime have a habit of eliminating competition through "mechanical failures", and direct strike when pressed for time. Had this been a domestic flight, it would have been swept under the rug. Some say that top ranking officials of the regime were leaving the country with incriminating evidence, possibly to defect, and this was a desperate last resort by the IRGC to eliminate them. Likely multiple missiles too (3?), the last hit possibly while the plane was coming back. There is more to this story and a true independent investigation would reveal that.

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Hi Kip;

Yes, the point is moot, sadly.

Last Tuesday, before there was solid evidence of missiles and people were speculating, I was hoping against hope that it was a turbine section that had gone thru the wing and compromised the fuel tank much like was seen in QF32, which was leaving a large trail of fuel as it returned to land. Knowing the nationalities of the passengers, I just couldn't see what was in it for the Iranian government.

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6 hours ago, MD2 said:

This strike was likely deliberate. The competing factions within the Islamic regime have a habit of eliminating competition through "mechanical failures", and direct strike when pressed for time. Had this been a domestic flight, it would have been swept under the rug. Some say that top ranking officials of the regime were leaving the country with incriminating evidence, possibly to defect, and this was a desperate last resort by the IRGC to eliminate them. Likely multiple missiles too (3?), the last hit possibly while the plane was coming back. There is more to this story and a true independent investigation would reveal that.

Ukraine Airliner Was Hit by a Second Missile Over Iran, Video Shows

Footage raises new questions about how forthcoming Iranian authorities were after admitting they accidentally downed jet




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A quite unusual action? 

Canada offers funds to families of Canadian victims of Flight 752

Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauImage copyrightAFP VIA GETTY IMAGES Image captionCanada has offered compensation to help with the immediate costs for families of some victims of Flight PS752

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canada will compensate families of the victims of the Ukraine Airlines crash.

The funds are designed to assist families of victims who are Canadians citizens or permanent residents in covering related costs such as travel.

Mr Trudeau said families would receive C$25,000 ($19,200; £14,600) per victim.

Fifty-seven Canadian nationals were on the plane when it was hit by an Iranian air defence missile earlier this month.

"This is a unique and unprecedented situation because of the international sanctions place in Iran and the difficulties that that imposes on these families," Mr Trudeau said on Friday.

"This is the first step. These families have lost a loved one in extraordinary circumstances and this grieving is even more difficult as a result," he said.

Families are facing immediate financial pressures as they sort out the necessary funeral arrangements and travel in the wake of the tragedy, said Mr Trudeau. "These families need help now," he said.

The prime minister said Canada still expected Iran to financially compensate the victims' families for their loss.

The Ukraine International Airlines flight crashed shortly after taking off from the Iranian capital Tehran on 8 January, killing all 176 passengers and crew members on board. Iran initially denied it was involved, but later admitted the plane was brought down by a missile fired in error.

Mr Trudeau said Iran has been asked to send the "black box" flight and cockpit data recorders from a crashed jet to France, saying it was one of the few countries with the ability to quickly analyse the badly damaged devices.

He also said 20 families of Canadian victims had requested the repatriation of remains and that the first of those remains are expected to be returned to Canada in the coming days.

Also on Friday, Canada's Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne met with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Oman to press Mr Zarif on full access for officials from Canada and other affected nation to assist in the investigation into the passenger plane crash.

On Thursday, ministers from five nations which lost citizens on the flight demanded full co-operation from Iran in a transparent international inquiry into the crash. The foreign ministers of Afghanistan, Britain, Canada, Sweden and Ukraine also said Iran must pay compensation.

They agreed on five key demands to Iran, including a "thorough, independent and transparent international investigation" and compensation to the victims' families.

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57 minutes ago, conehead said:

And... I thought I had read that the DFDR and CVR had already been sent to France, or was I dreaming that?

Initially the Iranians said they would send the black boxes to France. ( this was prior to admitting missile attack).

Shortly after making that statement France said they would accept the boxes for analysis but are still waiting for them,.

As of today, although the black boxes were found about a week ago, the Iranians have yet to send the boxes  thus Canada is requesting they be sent to France now.

I would think that when the Iranians initially stated they would send the boxes, "they" were still hoping it was a "crash". Their delay now can  probably  be accredited to the fact that they  are reluctant to send the boxes now because they know that the findings will just add more proof to the "shoot-down" and would like to see the findings released as late as possible or possibly not made public..... as  more condemning Press  is certainly not what they want.

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