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Old 22nd Jul 2014, 04:29
  #711 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2014
Location: South Alabama
Posts: 91
It is unlikely (but not impossible) that MH17 was shot down using a R60 IR guided missile. Here's why I think so.

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about how missiles work, especially in the media. Arguing that such a missile "would go for an engine" and that the cockpit damage we see with MH17 would eliminate an R60 as a possibility makes some false assumptions.

Guiding a weapon using a signature radiated by the target itself is a weapon designers dream come true. "Heat seekers" take clever advantage of a byproduct of jet engines, namely IR radiation. Some IR guided missiles have been designed to home on the IR signature the hot metal of a jet engine; others home on the hot exhaust plume. Most missiles of this type have a contact fuse, but actual contact with the target is more a matter of luck than anything else. And while it is true that IR missiles have been known to fly right up the tail pipe, this event is very rare. Near misses are the norm and that's why all missiles of this type have proximity fuses, usually optical or radio proximity types. The R60 can be configured with either type of fuse. A successful R60 intercept could result in damage anywhere on the airframe, including the cockpit.

The R60 can certainly bring down a 777, but success is far from guaranteed. The small 3kg expanding warhead can cause only so much damage, but sometimes small damage is sufficient. Airliners, when intact, are quite strong. But once the integrity of the airframe is compromised an airliner operating at around Mach 0.8, can break apart very quickly from aerodynamic forces.

So was it an R60? The photos I've seen of the skin of MH17 showing wide-spread and severe damage suggest that the aircraft was downed by a large blast/fragmentation warhead like the one found on the SA-11, not the much smaller expanding rod warhead associated with the R60.
The R60 has a practical range of around 4km and a very limited head-on capability. That means it's likely an R60 attack would be visual from the rear quarter. Any fighter pilot worth his salt could certainly recognize a 777 at 4km range and not confuse it with a military aircraft, especially a twin engine turboprop. By the way, a 777 has a huge IR signature from the engines, especially from behind and below. An IR missile would not prefer a heated pitot tube.

I understand that the SA-11 can be deployed from a sophisticated multi vehicle system including several types of radar and a command and control protocol which should minimize accidentally misidentifying and shooting down an airliner. This is what you would expect if the SA-11 system were operated by a fully operational army defense system. But it appears that the missile can also be fired by minimally trained solders from one vehicle using just the guidance radar after observing nothing more revealing than a "blip" on their screen. Given a trigger happy crew without any real idea of what they're shooting at, makes a mistake like this one much more likely to be caused by a ground based missile crew as opposed to a more highly trained fighter pilot who can see his target with his eyeballs.

When I was a kid flying combat missions over North Viet Nam I watched many of my fellow pilots as they were downed by SA-2 missiles. The fragments of the 777 which fell to earth are not inconsistent with the fragments produced when a SA-2 makes a successful intercept.

In summary, the bulk of the evidence points to a SAM, as far as I'm concerned, but unlike some, I'm not sure just exactly who did the shooting.
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