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: Joker : Air defense nuance

додано: 21-10-2001 // // URL: http://maidan.org.ua/static/mai/1003683272.html
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Up till now the circumstances of the tragedy with Tu-154 Siberian Airlines plane on its flight from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk were mostly discussed in layman's terms. Occasional pieces written by experts were filled with professional jargon and mostly looked cryptic for the general public.

Michael Khodarenkov's article "Unfinished Flight" recently published by Russian "Independent Military Observer" discusses a possible version of the tragedy at the same time giving enough information about the S-200 missile complex. This article enables a person generally skeptical about the conclusions of the government agencies to think and analyze the facts independently.

Overall we agree with the logic of the author, but want to point out an important detail that can change the widespread opinion about the guilt of the Ukrainian military. We do not dispute that the most probable reason of the crash was a Ukrainian air defense missile. But the general picture presented by Khodarenkov leads us to think that this missile could be re-targeted from an unmanned aircraft used during the military exercises (original target) to the Tu-154 airliner due to the actions of people with no connection to Ukraine whatsoever.

We would not want to repeat the whole article here and highly recommend that everyone interested in the matter would read it. It is very well written and provides a lot of information about the S-200 missile launcher and the history of its use. In what follows we will assume that the reader is familiar with Khodarenkov's arguments.

First we want to underscore the fact mentioned by Khodarenkov about the self-destruction mechanism of the missile. This mechanism does not require any external orders to be transmitted to it, but rather activates automatically if the guiding system does not receive a signal reflected from a target for a certain period of time. The length of this period is not specified in the article, but seems to be of the order of ten seconds. Without reflected signal the guiding of the missile is also impossible. Since missile exploded very close to the plane, we can take as certain that some guiding radar was doing the job up to the very moment of explosion near Tu-154.

Next, we would like to give a rather lengthy quote:

<i> If the guiding radar is not working, targeting of the missile is impossible. Thus it seems that if Ukrainian crew switched off the power on the radar after hitting the near-zone target, the Tu-154 airliner 300 kilometers away would never be targeted (although new data suggest that the actual distance was 225 kilometers). It seems that one can easily prove that was the case. The power on the guiding radar was shut off at 14:43, while the plane was hit at 14:45. Thus one would conclude that the launcher crew has nothing to do with the tragedy.

<b> Air defense nuance </b>

One should not however discount the following important circumstance. The practice of missile exercises on shooting ranges and at permanent air-defense positions showed, that together with the crew that performs exercises, the target is usually followed by the radars of other launcher crews which use this possibility to train themselves in detecting the target, locking on it and following up. These could be the radars of the launchers that were not even a part of current exercises. If Opuk peninsula military exercise included missile launches, no air defense officer in his right mind would want to miss this opportunity to train his crew. We note that the air defense forces in Crimea have missile complexes S-200V (Vega) deployed near Feodisia, Sevastopol, and Evpatoria.

Let us assume for a moment that the launcher on Opuk peninsula had its radar frequency set to letter-code 2-A. and simultaneously another launcher's radar with the same letter-code of the frequency followed the Tu-154 flight from Sevastopol, Feodosia or Evpatoria for training purposes. Even if the original guiding radar was shut off, the radar from Sevastopol or Evpatoria would have provided a perfect guide for the missile in the air. There would still be a signal reflected from the plane which would enable the missile guiding mechanism to work. In such circumstances targeting of Tu-154 was unavoidable. One cannot exclude such scenario (the guilty party was quick to announce that there were no launchers with the same frequency letter-code on the whole Crimea peninsula, but that is not an established fact yet).</i>

Thus, in response to the statement of Ukrainian military about powering off the guiding radar two minutes before the plane crash (we will return to this statement below), the author puts forward an assumption that other radars were pointing at Tu-154 ("from Feodosia, Sevastopol or Evpatoria"). Commanders at this other radar stations "did not want to miss the opportunity to train their crews" (it is not clear from the article, why would not these commanders train their crews using unmanned target aircraft. After all, civilian airliners are flying over Crimea each day and one can practice on them accordingly. Maybe the author had in mind that the "other" radar was accidentally redirected from an unmanned target to the airliner?)

Here we come to a question that provoked the writing of this whole article: "How would one know, that the "other" radar was a Ukrainian one?" One can formulate this question a little bit differently: "Would not it be possible, that the other radar belonged to a different state?"

It is easy to assume, that commanders of the launchers that belong to other states also "did not want to miss the opportunity to train their crews". And these could be commanders of Russian S-200 launchers deployed somewhere near the area of exercises, or even a commander of some Turkish or Georgian anti-aircraft missile launchers (there are many states inside the 300 kilometer radius from the airliner crash point)

Moreover, the probability of the accident in case of radar guiding provided from another country, - a country that did not take part in the military exercises, - would be much higher.

First, recall that to be effective the "other" guiding radar has to have the same frequency ("same frequency letter-code") as the missile guiding system. Even if you are skeptical about the statements of the "guilty party" that was "quick to announce that there were no launchers with the same frequency letter-code on the whole Crimea peninsula", you have to admit that at least Ukrainian military commanders new about the letter-codes used during the exercises. It is therefore unlikely, that they kept the same letter-codes for the launchers on regular duty. After all you don't want the country's air-defense capability to be reduced during military exercises. At the same time the air-defense commanders of other countries might not take that into considerations or simply have no information about the frequencies used by Ukrainian launchers. This would make frequency matching much more probable.

Second, one should take into account that all air space around the exercise zone is monitored by wide-angle radar systems (at least for the purpose of detecting any aircraft penetrating the no-fly zone). This radar (or several radars) would be clearly showing for several minutes the missile mark approaching the Tu-154 mark. The mere fact that S-200 missed the unmanned target and did not self-destruct must have already put the alarm on. Ukrainian military command had time and ability to detect the re-targeting of the missile and give an order to power-off all Ukrainian guiding radars. This is true for all Ukrainian radar station, wherever they could be deployed.

On the contrary, if the plane was illuminated by a radar from another country, Ukrainian military had no ability to switch it off. Indeed, to shut off Ukrainian guiding radar stations it is enough to pass an order through the established communication channels. One needs less then a minute to do that (the missile was flying for more then three minutes before it reached the airliner). But if the radar belongs to another country, Ukrainian air defense had to call the central command of this country (it would not be even clear who to call: Russia, Georgia, Turkey?) explain them the situation and ask to check if any of their radars could be following the airliner. Then they should ask shut off this radar. We all know how eager are the central military commands to respond to a request when it comes from another country.
In this situation even five minutes were not enough to save the situation.

To sum up, we conclude that unintentional usage of the other country radar to guide the missile towards the Tu-154 airliner seems to be more probable then the usage of a Ukrainian radar.

Finally, one can not rule out another, less probable scenario in which the plane was intentionally targeted by a radar belonging to terrorists. If this radar was powerful enough, it could have re-targeted the guiding system of the missile from the unmanned plane to the airliner. Such intentional radar illumination could have been done from a vessel in the Black Sea right under the air corridor. Then a radar equal in power to the one of the S-200 launcher would have given a larger signal at the missile head receiver. The air traffic in the region is rather heavy. Terrorists could learn about the military exercises and wait on their vessel for the moment of missile launch. After that they could measure the
guiding radar frequency, match it on their own radar and attempt to guide the missile to the plane of their choice.

This version could sound exotic and might be less probable then the previous one. But recent events show that reality can be more convoluted then any thriller movie. Both versions show, that the guilt of Ukrainian military is not proved and the matter requires a more thorough investigation.


Michael Khodarenok. "Unfinished Flight", an article in Russian "Independent Military Observer" (in Russian)
<A Href="http://nvo.ng.ru/wars/2001-10-12/3_flight.html">http://nvo.ng.ru/wars/2001-10-12/3_flight.html</A>

Vladimir Rushajlo. "No attempts to conceale the cause of the catastrophe", "Izvestia" newspaper (in Russian)
<A Href="http://www.izvestia.ru/rubr.cgi?idr=737&idbl=&id=7803">http://www.izvestia.ru/rubr.cgi?idr=737&idbl=&id=7803</A>

Yanina Vaskovskaya. "We hit it", "Novaya Gazeta" (in Russian)
<A Href="http://2001.novayagazeta.ru/nomer/2001/75n/n75n-s00.shtml">http://2001.novayagazeta.ru/nomer/2001/75n/n75n-s00.shtml</A>

Announcement of the beginning of planned Ukrainian military exercises on the "Opuk Peninsula" shooting range of the Black Sea Fleet of Russia (in Russian)
<A Href="http://txt.ntvru.com/world/04Oct2001/s300.html">http://txt.ntvru.com/world/04Oct2001/s300.html</A>

додано: 21-10-2001 // URL: http://maidan.org.ua/static/mai/1003683272.html
Версія до друку // Редагувати // Стерти

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