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January 11, 2020

Iranian Armed Forces Say They Inadvertently Shot Down The Ukrainian Plane - Updated

Updated below

The Iranian Armed Forces General Staff just admitted (in Farsi, English translation) that its air defenses inadvertently shot down the Ukrainian flight PS 752 shortly after it took off on January 8 in Tehran :

2- In early hours after the missile attack [on US’ Ain al-Assad base in Iraq], the military flights of the US’ terrorist forces had increased around the country. The Iranian defence units received news of witnessing flying targets moving towards Iran’s strategic centres, and then several targets were observed in some [Iranian] radars, which incited further sensitivity at the Air Defence units.

3- Under such sensitive and critical circumstances, the Ukrainian airline’s Flight PS752 took off from Imam Khomeini Airport, and when turning around, it approached a sensitive military site of the IRGC, taking the shape and altitude of a hostile target. In such conditions, due to human error and in an unintentional move, the airplane was hit [by the Air Defence], which caused the martyrdom of a number of our compatriots and the deaths of several foreign nationals.

4- The General Staff of the Armed Forces offers condolences and expresses sympathy with the bereaved families of the Iranian and foreign victims, and apologizes for the human error. It also gives full assurances that it will make major revision in the operational procedures of its armed forces in order to make impossible the recurrence of such errors. It will also immediately hand over the culprits to the Judicial Organization of the Armed Forces for prosecution.

The Pentagon had claimed that Iran shot down the airliner but the evidence it presented was flimsy and not sufficient as the U.S. tends to spread disinformation about Iran.

It is welcome that the Iranian forces come clean about the incident.

That is not a given in such cases.

After the USS Vincennes in 1988 had shot down Iran Air Flight 655 and killed 290 people, including many children, the U.S. government denied any culpability. George H. W. Bush, the vice president of the United States at the time, commented: "I will never apologize for the United States – I don't care what the facts are... I'm not an apologize-for-America kind of guy." Despite its "error" the crew was given medals and the captain was even awarded a Legion of Merit "for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as commanding officer ...".

We can be assured by the statement of Iran's president that the responsible Iranian officer will receive no such a reward:

Hassan Rouhani @HassanRouhani - 4:43 UTC · 11 Jan 2020
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

The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake.

My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences.

Let us also not forget that the root cause of the accident was an assassination campaign which the U.S. launched against foreign military commanders of a country with which it is not at war:

On the day U.S. forces killed Soleimani, they launched another secret operation targeting a senior Iranian official in Yemen

The strike targeting Abdul Reza Shahlai, a financier and key commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force who has been active in Yemen, did not result in his death, according to four U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

The U.S. executed a long planned campaign against several Iranian officers in third countries without any reasonable justification:

“There is no doubt that there were a series of imminent attacks being plotted by Qasem Soleimani,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News on Friday. “We don’t know precisely when and we don’t know precisely where, but it was real.” Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper have likewise supported the case for an imminent plot.

“Did it exactly say who, what, when, where? No,” Milley told reporters this week. “But he was planning, coordinating and synchronizing significant combat operations against U.S. military forces in the region, and it was imminent.”

Can there be any "imminent threat" when one does not know the "who, what, when, where" of the threat? Why would killing a high officer prevent the execution of such a threat? The excuse is obviously bullshit.

It was the U.S. assassination of the Iraqi and Iranian national heroes Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes and Major General Qassem Suleimani that led to the high alarm and nervousness which, in the end, killed 176 passengers and crew on board of flight PS 752.

Iran's foreign minister is right to point that out:

Javad Zarif @JZarif - 4:05 UTC · 11 Jan 2020
A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by Armed Forces:

Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster

Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.

The death of the people on flight PS 752 is the tragic outcome of unreasonable U.S. aggression.

Update 11:00 UTC

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp IRGC's Aerospace Commander Amir-Ali Hajizadeh just gave press conference. It was an IRGC air defense unit that shot the plane down.

Iran Front Page journalist Reza Khaasteh translated on Twitter:

IRGC Aerospace Cmdr: I wish I was dead and such an incident hadn't happened. We in IRGC accept all the responsibility, and are ready to implement any decision made by the Establishment.

IRGC Aerospace Cmdr: I was in the country's west following attacks on US base in Iraq when I heard the news. We sacrificed our lives for our people for a lifetime, and now we're trading our reputation with God (disgracing ourselves) and appear in front of the camera to explain.

IRGC Aerospace Cmdr says we had requested the establishment of a no-fly zone given the war situation. But it was not approved for certain considerations.

Revision: IRGC Aerospace Cmdr says Air Defence operator sent a message to his commanders; but after he didn't receive any response for 10 seconds, he decided to shoot it down.

Video of IRGC Aerospace Cmdr. showing the place on map where the Ukrainian plane was shot down by the air defence.

IRGC Aerospace Cmdr: I informed Iranian officials on Wednesday morning, and said we speculate our own passenger plane has been shot down. But the General Staff of Armed Forces quarantined all those who knew about it, and decided to declare it later.

IRGC Aerospace Cmdr.: The officials, including Aviation authorities, who kept denying the missile hit, are not guilty. They made those remarks based on what they knew. We are to blame for everything.

IRGC Aerospace Cmdr.: We were at that time ready for an all-out war with US. We had reports of cruise missiles fired at Iran. It was an individual's error that caused this tragedy.

What I find inexplicable is that the crew of Tor M-1 air defense system did not really consider that the Tehran airport was operating and that civil traffic was likely. More than ten planes had already taken off before the Ukrainian flight took to the air. The accident happened shortly after 6:00 am local time. Pure speculation: I suspect that a crew change had happened at 6:00 am and that the overnight crew did not really brief the one taking over.

Another leak (ukr) from the Ukrainian side of the investigation gives some hints on how the plane came down (machine translation):

"We took up the restoration of fragments of the aircraft. It was necessary to determine how these pieces of metal dumped into a huge pile should be interconnected.

The intrigue remained until late. The fact is that there were no damages on most parts of the aircraft. There was no explosion and no fire in the engines or on the wings. It is possible that the plane could fall almost intact. Unlike the remains of the Boeing MN-17, there were no immediately visible signs of defeat by combat elements on the fuselage and wings. A lot of damage to the case is the result of a fall. But after laying out all the fragments of the aircraft, it became obvious that the bottom of the cockpit was missing.

Among the wreckage, fragments of the upper part of the cabin were identified. And then the find finally took place - at about 22 hours. On a fragment of the cockpit, we found holes in the damaging elements of the warhead of the rocket, which pierced the skin. We found! For the first time, direct evidence appeared in this case, which made it possible to prove what caused the death of the aircraft. For us it was a turning point.

So what we now understand:

Russian anti-aircraft missile "Tor" hit the liner in the lower part of the front of the fuselage, directly under the cockpit.

A direct hit and the cabin flared up inside. Instantly turned off the transponder of the aircraft, which gives signals about the flight. Instantly lost contact.

While there is no data, one or two missiles have caused such damage. It is possible that the second missile also hit the fuselage from below close to the first. But all this remains to be clarified.

We continue to lay out fragments of the aircraft until the complete collection of all surviving parts.

We expect that today we will gain access to all objective control data.

In cooperation with Iranian colleagues, we get the impression that those who contact us sincerely want to help themselves and figure it out, in general, there are no problems. Let's hope that such a mood and working contacts remain with us now."

Posted by b on January 11, 2020 at 4:21 UTC | Permalink

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LarryMorgan @600:

I had anticipated that it might turn out that a first missile was fired by MEK ...

This would make more sense to me. But then there's a question of how well trained the MEK guy is and the possibility of hardware malfunctions, etc.

IMO, the only way to be certain that the plane transponder (and other systems?) is disabled would be to have a device on board the plane. Also, perhaps a device on the plane could also do some EW (like spoofing)? Some articles posted here in the last several days have described EW that returns signals that affect the ADS.

I've read that the underside of the cockpit area is missing. AFAIK that's a likely place for where a lot of the plane's electronics (like transponder) would've been. It might've been totally destroyed by the Tor missile but it seems very convenient that it is missing. A little too convenient?


Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 15 2020 7:00 utc | 601

Jackrabbit and LarryMorgan

The NYT piece did confirm the 23 second discrepancy with the transponder.
The propaganda machine having to fill in that gap hence the NYT video.
As for shutting down the transponder, that may be possible through the planes data link, if not,it wouldn't be too difficult to install something in CIA run Ukraine so transponder could be switched off.

RT had a piece on Iran sending the black boxes to France, but now Reuters has a piece on Ukraine asking for them.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jan 15 2020 8:21 utc | 602

The New Your Times has a new video of two missiles hitting the plane. Just as I sad earlier, two missiles, less than 30 seconds apart. The analysis is however bullshit. (Here I am quoting ZeroHedge.)

New Video Shows 2 Iranian Missiles Striking Doomed Passenger Jet - ZeroHedge, January 14, 2020

The NYT also debunked another one of the Iranian government's claims: That the strike was due to 'human error', as one missile operator mistook the plane for a cruise missile. This doesn't jive with the plane's flight path: Since it had just taken off, it would have still been ascending, not descending toward a target on the ground, like missiles do.

As Paveway IV pointed out earlier, a cruise missile targeting a Tor TLAR would try to attack it from above.

Posted by: Petri Krohn | Jan 15 2020 9:31 utc | 603

Posted by: LarryMorgan | Jan 15 2020 5:53 utc | 600

So this at least potentially ties off some loose ends by proposing an initial missile disabled the transponder and alerted the guy on the ground to start videoing.

You would have to analyze the speed difference between sight and sound if this is feasable. The person filming would not have seen the first impact according to this story, have been alerted by the - later - sound and would have to find the point in the sky with the camera that was relevant. It sounds more like people given smartphones, told where to look and how/where to upload stuff in a regime change operation. Expect more videos with blood on the ground from protests. I hear Trump threatened Iranians not to cut the internet.
According to the twitter sphere there are now the first calls to arm protesters.

Simple explanation would be that both missiles came from the same TOR. As the Ukrainian report linked to somewhere above states, the plane could not have been mistaken on the screen, if the software did not have a glitch. For responsibility it depends on an automated TOR response which operators would have had to stop or and unautomated response where operators put the finger on the buttons themselves.

In the case of an automated response, it would have been enough if operators had been distracted. It is immensely boring to watch a screen without doing something.

I suspect, it is a case of a vulnerability of BUK/TOR software.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 15 2020 9:35 utc | 604

Petri Krohn

The NYT video is a video of a video playing on a screen. Why is that.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jan 15 2020 10:32 utc | 605

The one with the two missiles? Because it is taken from a security camera. Security cameras have different video formats, it is not simple to post them somewhere.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 15 2020 10:57 utc | 606

Plenty of security camera footage on the internet and in news articles.
Video of a video can hardly be verified as NYT says. The way to go though if the original has been doctored.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jan 15 2020 11:06 utc | 607

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jan 15 2020 11:06 utc | 607

I don't think it was doctored. Nothing to be won by making it two missiles.

The search for the mistake is serious. Iranians et al will find out about it.

This here now sounds possible

The connection to the plane was jammed before aircraft identification. Somehow I don't believe IRGC jammed itself. If they had done that more would have happened. The jamming must have targeted this plane or maybe it is Boeing whose signal can be easily jammed.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 15 2020 11:25 utc | 608


Targeted jamming or just jamming one or two frequencies is something I have thought about. Radio signals I believe can be transmitted in a narrow beam.
There have been some comments on these threads that jamming jams everything, but that is only for a wide area broadcast on multiple frequencies.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jan 15 2020 11:43 utc | 609

Possibly it could be done from the ground if you knew about the Tor anti aircraft battery newly added and the plane timetable. Possibly very much from where the New York Times Video was filmed. But I am no techie.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 15 2020 12:34 utc | 610

add to 610

There is also the communicated advice to US embassies not to have contact with Iranian opposition groups - MEK, ethnic nationalists etc.
This has now been revoked.

US did not want a trail leading to this.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 15 2020 12:59 utc | 611

somebody | Jan 15 2020 11:25 utc | 608

In case the IRGC jammed the transponder before the first rocket was shot this still cannot explain the magical appearance of a guy with his cellphone camera at the exact right time on the rooftop of a building in a rotten surburban Teheran old industrial suburb and the quick delivery of the video to the right specialized (Bellingcat-trained) guy at NYT. Some people must have know before that something would happen and in exactly which direction of the nightly sky. And this person must have been skilled enough to immediately send the material to exactly the right adress in the US.
To win in the lottery is more probable. The case continues to smell.

Posted by: Hausmeister | Jan 16 2020 10:31 utc | 612

Posted by: Hausmeister | Jan 16 2020 10:31 utc | 612

The crash has now disappeared completely from the news. Including Press TV. Last person interviewed claiming that the Iranian regime will fall soon is the former crown prince of the Shah :-)).

For some reason Lufthansa seems to be flying to Tehran airport again. Also Qataris.

I suppose threats and counterthreats have been compared and mutually assured destruction has been recognized.

The rest is politics.

Posted by: somebody | Jan 16 2020 10:44 utc | 613

The Ukranian plane crash stinks !

As soon as the Iranian BM were in the air - the Iranians would and should have closed their airspace ! Why did they not do it ? It takes a second.

That the Ukranian plane veered to the IRG HQ near the airport,or that the radar or transponder pods,on the plane were off or put off - is all bullshit.The Iranian ADS would know all the commercial flight schedules of the day,and would also know the RCS of a Boeing,and the time of its takeoff (from its own airport!).

Even if the Americans jets were to make a raid into Iran - the ADS at the land border,would pick them up and the jets would fly at 20-25000 feet.The Ukranian plane was at take off stage -less than 10000 feet.How could the Iranian ADS at Tehran,assume that the projectile was a Cruise Missile - at low altitude ?

American jets were in the air in Iraq,even before the BM launch by Iran - and must have been tracked by the Iranian ADS and Radars.

Not 1 American Killed in the Ukranian Flight ! Not 1 EU killed in the flight ! 90% were Iranians ! That is why the Iranians came out on the streets - AS IRANIANS WERE KILLED ON THE FLIGHT !

Ain't no coincidence ! It is the Americans who might have jammed the communications between the flight and the Iranian ADS - and also jammed the Iranian ADS - to cause the Iranian Hit ! The aim was to discredit the IRG and the Iranian Elite - by making the Persians kill Persians on Persian Soil - blowing the myths around the Quds,Basij, IRG and the clergy - and start a Tahrir !

There can be no other reason ! Americans can jam any Iranian ADS - except the S-400 systems - as also,proven by the IAF raids in Syria - right upto the Syrian Presidential Palace.The Yankii hacked the Iranian Nuke enrichment plants - hacking into the Being coordinates and radars,would be cakewalk

Iranians/Russians allow the killing of Soleimani , Iranians Miss all the targets in Iraq , Do not close their airspace after launching of BM AND SHOOT DOWN A NATO PLANE FULL OF IRANIANS - with no American or EU casualties !

S-T-I-N-K !

During Indo-Pak conflict in 2019 the Hindoo worms shot their own chopper near the IB.That was due intense radar clutter and noise and EW from both sides of the border.dindooohindoo

The Ukranian plane was shot 10000 feet in the air - in TEHRAN, hundreds of miles from the IB with Iraq ! And there is a complete RECORDING by some human on the ground - who was there at the right time and right place. 2 Missiles were fired ! TWO ! The 2nd was to make sure - a MAN behind the MANPAD !

Posted by: samir sardana | Jan 20 2020 3:14 utc | 614

Russian general accuses Israel of knowing passenger plane schedule during Syria attack

The Israeli Air Force’s tactic of hiding behind unarmed and civilian aircraft to try to prevent the Syrian military from staging an effective air defence has become all too common, Lieut. Gen. Valery Gorbenko, former commander of the Russian Air Force’s 4th Air and Air Defence Army, has said.

Earlier, in a statement regarding the Thursday morning missile strikes targeting military facilities in Damascus and Syria’s southwest, Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov provided new details about the attacks, confirming that they were carried out by four Israeli Air Force F-16s.

According to Konashenkov, at the time of the Israeli assault, a Cham Wings Airbus A320 with 172 passengers on board was on approach to land at the Damascus International Airport, and had to be diverted to prevent a possible accidental shootdown by Syrian air defences.

Konashenkov stressed that only the quick-thinking of air traffic controllers and the effective functioning of Syria’s automated air traffic control system ensured that the civilian aircraft was able to safely turn around and land at the nearest standby airport, which happened to be the Hmeymim Airbase in Latakia.

“The Israeli military has adopted the tactic of hiding behind unarmed aircraft, including civilian airliners,” Lt. Gen. Gorbenko lamented. “This tactic makes attacks against Syrian targets safe for the Israeli Air Force, since it severely restricts the actions of Syrian air defences afraid of shooting down a passenger plane by mistake. But the moral aspect of the use of such tactics is questionable,” he added.

According to Gorbenko, the fact that Israel chose to time its attack on Damascus with the approach of a passenger plane toward the Syrian capital was almost certainly not a coincidence. “It’s likely that the Israelis knew the timetable and schedule of regular flights in the region, and could have postponed the strikes” if they wanted to, he noted.

Posted by: dave | Feb 8 2020 8:32 utc | 615

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