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Ukrainian Aircraft down in Iran

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Ukrainian Aircraft down in Iran

Old 12th Jan 2020, 16:52
  #481 (permalink)  
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I'm sure the SAM was under the command of one or more officers, rather than conscripts. However, their English skills, if the deployment overnight of the units even thought about it, could well be zero, let alone advising the relevant frequencies.

They could have always run FlightRadar24 of course *

* : This is not an idle comment, the realtime data is readily available on the Internet. It's the same as the Vincennes/Iran Air 655 fiasco in 1988, where every official enquiry stated that they had no way of knowing about the scheduled Iran Air A300 - despite the quartermaster on board all US Navy ships overseas having a current OAG (Official Airline Guide) timetable to hand, to book leave etc when abroad, which had all the cross-Gulf scheduled flights listed of course, right on board the ship.
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Old 12th Jan 2020, 17:17
  #482 (permalink)  
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The Iranians have had a separate frequency for military identification when crossing into their airspace for years. What was worrying was that they would only answer 50% of the time. I’m sure many pilots continued on thinking the worst that would happen would be an interception, rather than a SAM. After all, who in their right mind would shoot down an airliner?.........
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Old 12th Jan 2020, 17:24
  #483 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by WHBM
They could have always run FlightRadar24 of course *
Provided it is accessible across the Iranian firewall!

However, there could have been a man with the information at his fingertips on the other end of a phone or other link. That'd work fine until communications went down or drastically slowed up. A declared contributor in this case is that communications weren't working properly - network overload, failure or jamming. Could the safety recommendation be better communications infrastructure for the IRGC Aerospace Force?
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Old 12th Jan 2020, 18:46
  #484 (permalink)  
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With regard to departures prior to the AUI flight, I have just checked (on FR24) and in the hour preceding AUI's departure I only saw two; an AtlasGlobal at 01:47Z and a QTR at 02:08Z. That then leaves a gap of 36 minutes prior to AUI's departure. We don't know of course but 06:00 local sounds like a good time for a shift change. That would have made the AUI the first departure after 06:00 (and indeed after the QTR at 05:38 local).
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Old 12th Jan 2020, 19:18
  #485 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by dmba
I'm not sure I understand what this flight did differently to all those taking off before it and those shortly after it. Did they all go in more or less the same direction, same altitude and towards the same "sensitive" area? Or was this one different?
Also consider change in circumstances on the ground, a shift change perhaps? Earlier crew heads for prayers or food and new crew not briefed adequately.

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Old 12th Jan 2020, 20:01
  #486 (permalink)  
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There is a lot of speculation around why the SAM site lit up on this airliner. Until the authorities have investigated or reported or until someone speaks with " anonymity because they are not authorized to speak officially" there will be nothing for us PPruners to examine, analyse or assess from which we can then meaningfully speculate. So it just becomes scenario creation. Here's one example scenario.

It might have been as simple as higher command raising the alert level to 'attack imminent' based on widely reported US military air activity directly associated with the ballistic missiles strike on their bases. EA6 Prowlers (see edit below) whose primary role is comms jamming were part of that I understand. On receiving this, maybe that was enough for the Iranian tactical command to announce 'possible enemy air or cruise missile attack imminent'. The SAM Site boys then go, "Ok, we're in business". These units then become fairly autonomous when in action since every time they light up their radar's to acquire a target they become a SEAD target themselves. The SAM site know that's what will kill them so if they knew they were giving away their position by lighting up an airliner and possibly risking almost certain elimination from the game, then I suspect they wouldn't have done so. Clearly, some or many of the elements of miscommunication, misidentification, miscalculation, fear, tension and C3 breakdown/misinterpretation were all at play. Comms jamming itself (which may have prevented the missile command centre receiving critical information concerning the Ukrainian flight), is an indicator of imminent enemy action and may have simply reinforced the 'under attack' scenario.

The inference is that civilian airliners simply shouldn't be anywhere near active military operations. The two cannot mix. No doubt some low level conscripts will pay a heavy price for the mistake (perhaps even execution in that regime), but the real culprits are the higher command and their failure to co-ordinate at the military to government interface. Such co-ordination would have simply banned civilian ops in Iranian air space thereby removing ambiguity from the missile battery's decision making. But who knows?

It is on their lives,that military in a 'hot' situation don't trust anything and as Lone Wolf has speculated they have very little time to react if they are to stay alive let alone defeat the enemy attack. It really doesn't matter how many civilian flights departed before the incident or what routes they took. Something in the threat level changed and this Ukrainian flight was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As a matter of interest (and I am sure I am not the first to surmise this) any cruise missile taking an airways route might be well disguised where civilian operations are in play since their air speeds are similar (notwithstanding the slower climb out speeds of the incident aircraft). Conversely, it is very likely that every SAM site is well aware of that possibility and ready to neutralise any threat from that quarter.

Edit: Advised by Sailvi767 and Willowrun 6-3

"No EA-6 Prowler aircraft because their roles and missions have been handed off to the EA-18G Growler (a derivative of the F/A-18 Hornet)."

Last edited by Lord Farringdon; 12th Jan 2020 at 21:56. Reason: Clarification re aircraft type.
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Old 13th Jan 2020, 02:37
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Originally Posted by dave.rooney
Consider the conditions under which the AA missiles were launched. The Iranian ballistic missiles were fired on the Iraqi bases around 3AM local time. The people manning the Tor-M1 would be hunkered down inside the vehicle waiting for an American counterstrike at any moment, especially since they were in the vicinity (and probably guarding) a ballistic missile research centre.......... snip...................
Neither you nor I have any first hand knowledge of exactly what the TOR crew knew. You seem to believe that they knew about the Iranian attack on the airport in Iraq or at least that they were put on some sort of alert status. That may very well be true; however, based on my experience flying with the Iranian military, I would would not be at all surprised to learn that they did NOT know about the attack against Iraq.

I have no proof of course, but I have quite a bit of combat experience in the U.S. Navy and we were made aware only of operations which might directly impact what we were doing. We got information on big picture items from the newspaper. I suspect the Iranian missile shooters were not in the big picture loop only three hours after the event took place.

During the time I was flying Iranian F-14's I had the opportunity to make a couple of simulated Phoenix missile attacks on what I believed to be Russian Foxbats overflying Iran, but they could have been another type belonging to another country. Whatever they were, they were very high and very fast but I never got any kind of heads up from the Iranian Air Defense folks. I assume somebody knew about the overflights, but the word never filtered down to the squadron level. Nonetheless, they did prove to be a good training exercise on high altitude, high speed intercepts for my back seat students. Command and control was not a strong point back then, and based on the events in the last week, I'd say it is still a problem. Fog of war and all that.

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Old 13th Jan 2020, 08:35
  #488 (permalink)  
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I hope the Iranian authorities will ensure there is a full investigation into the circumstances that led to the shooting down of PS572. They have taken the first step by accepting responsibility. However, there are many unanswered questions that the victims families and friends would like to be addressed to help them come to terms with their loss. I was moved by an interview of one of the victims who was quick to correct his interviewer that it was not an "accident". Of course it is not certain if it was an accident or a misjudgment or whether the civilian aircraft was deliberately targeted. I think that these questions should be properly addressed for everyone's sake including the Iranian authorities. The most likely explanation is that an overly paranoid operator wrongly identified the aircraft as a threat for reasons that should be further identified. But that is not the only possible explanation. The aircraft had a large number of North Americans on board, it may have had covert operatives on board, it could possibly have been deliberately targeted. Equally, it could have been a complete mistake where the launch was totally unintended.

In any event, it was yet another tragic loss of a civilian airliner by military action. The risk to civilian air traffic is considerable and needs to be reevaluated.
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Old 13th Jan 2020, 10:05
  #489 (permalink)  
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Worth a read.

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Old 13th Jan 2020, 13:24
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Originally Posted by Auxtank
It was following an established SID (Parot 3G). Other earlier departing aircraft had followed very similar tracks.
So the question is; why didn't the missile system's IFF correctly interpret the ADB-S squawk as civilian as opposed to a potential hostile?
Sorry if a bl**dy silly question.
I'm not sure if it matters by the time the missile is tracking. I suspect IFF only comes into lock/launch.
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Old 13th Jan 2020, 14:42
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Iran's Tasnim News now claims that the SAM site was jammed by a USAF RC-135W.

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Old 13th Jan 2020, 14:47
  #492 (permalink)  
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As Mozella advocates," the fog of war" was the most likely environment, and if the missile crew was just changing the guard, they also could have been doing a basic system check/calibration with a failed safety interlock. An alert could have been passed down from on high, but only the Iranians can address that part of the "fog". The missile battery was a highly mobile system, and the comm might have been poor, as well.

All here should realize that I am trying to "explain" things from a military point of view and not making an excuse for the terrible incident.

Lastly, the IFF is used primiarily before launch, and even the U.S. Stinger launcher has had IFF since the early 80's. Once that thing is launched, you cannot make it go blind. The really long range missiles and the command guided ones can be made to go blind or steered away from a target if the target is deemed friendly. The British debrief I got after the Falklands pointed out they could stop tracking easily and keep the Rapier missile from hitting a friendly ship or aircraft.

Gums sends...

Last edited by gums; 13th Jan 2020 at 18:44. Reason: correction
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Old 13th Jan 2020, 15:28
  #493 (permalink)  
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I think there is a danger of over-complicating things here. I know people are arguing for a full Annex 13 investigation into this event but I don't think one is either likely or necessary.

The primary purpose of an Annex 13 investigation is to determine the cause of an accident (or incident) in order to prevent a recurrence. Unlike MH17, there is no need for a forensic examination to prove the aircraft was shot down and identify the type of missile involved because the Iranians have publicly acknowledged the aircraft was downed by a missile, albeit in error; there is nothing to be gained from a safety investigation per se.

The type of missile is also not relevant from a safety perspective - nobody is in the business of certifying transport aircraft to withstand a missile strike, so there is no point in trying to work out the details.

Having 'owned' a live missile engagement zone in a previous life, my own view from the outset was that this had a failure of command and control written all over it. Different nations have different systems for controlling such things, but all will have some means of limiting the potential for own goals or targeting of innocents even if that is only via basic aircraft recognition. There certainly needs to be an investigation, and it will be an Iranian investigation to find out what part of its system failed: was it someone over-reacting or simply leaving a switch in AUTO?

I doubt very much whether there will be full (if any) transparency, and you could not blame them for that - most governments would do the same. While it will not bring people back, at least the discussions on compensation will start from an admission of liability.

Separately, there is work to do for ICAO. We need a better process for ensuring that commercial air transport flights are not placed at un-necessary risk when operating near conflict zones. Arguably, the fact that ballistic missiles were being lobbed about the place and that someone had offered to send cruise missiles to 52 targets of his choice should have raised a warning flag.

Let's see the ICAO security panel reconvene to review the lessons from MH17 in light of this latest tragedy.
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Old 13th Jan 2020, 16:02
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Originally Posted by Fortissimo
I think there is a danger of over-complicating things here. I know people are arguing for a full Annex 13 investigation into this event but I don't think one is either likely or necessary.
While I agree with some of your post, let me offer a response to this:
1. Completing the ICAO Annex 13 investigation will lead to a final report.
2. That final report will (hopefully) include FDR data and CVR extracts that may shed light on whether or not there was anything amiss with aircraft systems, etc.
3. It may also uncover possible minor irregularity in ATC/COMMS/OPS - something.
4. You can say that we don't know what we don't know.
5. Beyond that: I suspect that the nations whose citizens died in this crash will not be satisfied for the Investigation and Final report to not be done.
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Old 13th Jan 2020, 16:24
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Interview with a Russian expert of radar anti-aircraft missile systems

I have found a couple of interesting articles on the Novaya Gazeta (on their website, second article under: /articles/2020/01/11/83411-vse-taki-obezyana-s-granatoy, I don't know if I can post whole link here). They contain 2 interviews with Andrey Gorbachevsky, a Russian engineer and developper of radar anti-aircraft missile systems who worked for the Russian State Scientific Research Institute of Aviation Systems (GosNIIAS). That is: a person familiar with the Tor system.
It's clear throughout the articles that it's difficult for him to accept what happened, so much so that he says: "No one and under no circumstances could mistake a passenger plane for a cruise missile. To do that it would take not just a "monkey with a grenade", but a DRUNK "monkey with a grenade". He says the flight delay in his opinion couldn't have made any kind of difference, as "the plane took off from a civilian airfield and went along a standard track. A passenger plane cannot fly randomly, it goes along a dedicated corridor", plus "it was taking off", "that alone" would have told the crew commander (the one who gives the authorization to fire the missile, as he says, adding that without this authorization it is impossible to launch the missile) that it obviuosly was a passanger plane. He adds that after 20 seconds from take off the airplane would have been visible on the primary 'air search' radar (the TOR system has 2 radars, the second is for missile guidance) and for approximately 6 minutes it would have created a trace: so "it was clear where it was coming from" (i.e. the well-known civilian airport). He adds: the crew commander "evaluates the signal strength from the target by the magnitude of the mark (i.e. on the radar): if it's a large or small target. The indicators show a bright or dim mark. Simply put, the commander should have seen something big fly. From a large passenger plane, the mark will be ten times brighter than from a military target" (i.e. like a fighter plane). A cruise missile "has a very low reflecting power. The brightness of this point is no longer ten, but a hundred times less bright than that of a commercial airplane. And a cruise missile flies at a very low altitude, in order to avoid being detected... we are speaking about just tens of meters. And the Iranians shot down a huge plane flying at an altitude of 2400 meters. How can this be confused? The difference is where to direct the beam (i.e. for the launch): up to the sky or down along the earth".
Despite being so shocked by such an incredible 'mistake' (this shows, he says "the degree of collapse of its (=Iran's) air defense. I can't remember a bigger mistake in the history of air defense"), he concludes that the crew must have been terrified by the idea of the American raid and adds "they didn't see anything, they just took and fired".
So his take.
Edit: the radar expert says the guidance launch beam is so narrow (1 degree) that the passanger plane was aimed at (i.e. not possible that "something else" was targeted and then the missile hit it by mistake, he says). Regarding 'automated' mode for the Tor: he excludes that ("No, launching a rocket is not possible without an indication of the crew commander").

Last edited by ele; 13th Jan 2020 at 16:35.
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Old 13th Jan 2020, 16:48
  #496 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by Lonewolf_50
Completing the ICAO Annex 13 investigation will lead to a final report.
The scope of Annex 13 specifically excludes incidents involving injury or death inflicted by a third party.
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Old 13th Jan 2020, 17:15
  #497 (permalink)  
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Just the facts.....
Regarding over-complicating matters, and contending the Annex 13 process does not need to be conducted to a proper conclusion, Lonewolf_50's replies all are ones I agree with. There is a wide difference between an investigation and inquiry into the missile battery and the military chain of command generally in the incident, and the subject areas of the Annex 13 process. Stated another way, a proper report will set forth "the record" of the flight and its operational parameters in detail. It's useful to recall that just - and this is a guess as to an accurate number - 15 years ago the kinds of maps, flight tracks, airspace structure, and other important elements throughout this thread weren't available so readily, just days after an accident. But these information elements on a forum thread are not part of an official record, and should not be mistaken for same. And an official record is quite important, is it not?, for the steps which should follow (for reasons noted in the prior posts).
Also it would be useful to know which particular security panel of ICAO Fortissimo is saying needs to be reconvened - ICAO has run various types of things, and seems lately to be in the event-production business more all the time.
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Old 13th Jan 2020, 17:24
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Originally Posted by DaveReidUK
The scope of Annex 13 specifically excludes incidents involving injury or death inflicted by a third party.
David, I am hope you are aware that there is more to what is going on here than a written word on a page.
If there is some kind of evidence of something being amiss with any ATC or Aircraft Systems or processes that may turn out to be a contributory cause (again, we don't know what we don't know, and I suspect that the odds are slim), then that may offer the civil aviation flight safety realm things to learn.
Are the chances small? Yes, that is my guess, but that's all I have: a guess.
Do you remember how much was not known about AF 447 before the FDR's were examined?
Politically, going through the process may have a significant value that your reading of Annex 13 will not appreciate.
If the Iranian government chooses to stand on that 'letter of the law' that you refer to, that will send a message.

FWIW, they had already started the process before the premise of a technical malfunction was abandoned. There's even a link to that prelim somewhere in this thread. Here you go, Dave: the prelim.
On Page 3:
B. Actions taken to investigate the accident
- The investigation was instituted based on Annex 13 to the ICAO Convention.
If they choose to end this process sooner rather than later, I hope that decision will be taken in consultation with Ukranian and Canadian goverrnments, at the least.
Originally Posted by WillowRun
But these information elements on a forum thread are not part of an official record, and should not be mistaken for same. And an official record is quite important, is it not?,

Last edited by Lonewolf_50; 13th Jan 2020 at 19:29.
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Old 13th Jan 2020, 17:39
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A fast reference to Annex 13 revealed that there is an exclusion relating to "injuries" - not incidents - as part of its definition structure of Accident, which is built on defining when injuries (fatal or serious) occur to a person. In context, the exclusion also covers self-inflicted injuries or those caused to a stowaway, so not a general carve-out for a missile strike and similar events as a category.
That said, was the asserted exclusion applied to Pan Am 103?
And, is there some other exclusion with similar terms (not the one in Chapter 1, Definitions)?
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Old 13th Jan 2020, 17:45
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Originally Posted by BVRAAM
Not a bad read at all, but I'm surprised that the "caused by human error" trope is still alive and well in discussions of this sort. The launch crew almost certainly made a reasoned decision to fire within the context of its training and the information available at the time.
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