Wednesday, 20 August 2014

MH17: No more shoot-downs

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On July 17, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew members. Investigations continue, but it is widely assumed that the aircraft was brought down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile fired by separatist rebels. While the earlier loss of another Malaysia Airlines plane, Flight 370, which disappeared over the Indian Ocean in March, remains a mystery, the menace to flights over conflict zones is all too apparent. Could this disaster have been avoided?

Ukraine’s chief of counterintelligence, Vitaly Nayda, admitted that as early as July 14, three days before Flight 17 was shot down, he knew that rebels had Buk missile systems capable of striking targets up to 70,000 feet (far beyond the usual 33,000 feet cruising altitude of jetliners). It was also common knowledge that at least seven military aircraft had been shot down in the preceding weeks, including a cargo plane traveling at about 21,000 feet — well beyond the range of less sophisticated shoulder-fired missiles...