A Closer Look At The Soviet-Era Missile System Probably Used To Shoot Down MH17

There is overwhelming evidence that Malaysia airlines Flight MH 17, carrying 298 people, was shot down by SA-11 Buk s
urface-to-air antiaircraft missiles that were fired by the rebels — and supplied by the Russians.

Even the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta admits the obvious: “There is practically no doubt that the aircraft was shot down by the separatists.”

U.S. President Barack Obama recently stated that “evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile” launched from rebel-held territory in Ukraine, adding that the separatists didn’t have the ability to shoot down large planes “without sophisticated equipment and sophisticated training … from Russia.”

Here’s a look at how the Soviet-made system works:

Screen Shot 2014 07 22 at 6.28.25 AM

Intercepted conversations among rebels and suspected Russian intelligence officers discuss receiving the Buk system.

“Now we have (radar-guided surface-to-air) BUK (missile system), will shall bring them (planes) down,” a separatist and alleged Russian intelligence officer told a separatist leader on July 14.

An intercepted call on July 17 between a separatist, Buryat, and Khmuryi, an officer in the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian Federation, reveals the two discussing the best location to place the Buk system after it was delivered to Donetsk:

B: Yes, yes, yes. “BUK”,”BUK”.

K: Is it on a tractor?

B: Yes, it’s on it. We need to unload it somewhere, in order to hide.

K: Is it with a crew?

B: Yes, with the crew.

K: Don’t hide it anywhere. She’ll go there now.

To get an idea of how heavy-duty the Buk system is, here ‘s a comparison of selected surface-to-air missiles around the world.

Screen Shot 2014 07 22 at 6.37.43 AM

Local residents told Business Insider that they saw rebels transporting a Buk antiaircraft missile system near the city of Torez, where the plane went down in a ball of fire on July 17.

Rebels discussed taking the downed plane, expressing surprise that a civilian airliner was flying over an active warzone.


The Interpreter translated another conversation leaked by the SBU that further corroborates the mounting evidence:

Fighter: Regarding that plane downed in the area of Snezhny-Torez.

Mykola Kozitsin: Yes.

Fighter: It turned out to be a passenger flight. It fell in the area of Grabovo, there is a sea of corpses of women and children. Now the Cossacks are looking at all this.

Fighter: They’re broadcasting on TV that this is apparently an AN-26, a Ukrainian, a transport plane, but “Malaysian Airlines” is written on it. What was it doing on the territory of Ukraine?

M. Kozitsin: That means they were bringing in spies, I don’t know. You see.

Fighter: Yes, sir.

M. Kozitsin: What the f**k were they flying in here for, there’s a war on.

Fighter: I understand.

As the first graphic notes, the Buk system is easy to use and can work as stand-alone weapons — meaning they can function outside of a sophisticated networked air defence system.

Buk m2 smallest

While that’s useful in some respects it also makes it unnervingly easy to make a mistake, particularly for non-conventional fighters who are capable of firing the easy-to-use missiles, but don’t have the training needed to distinguish between civilian and military aircraft by sight.

That may explain why Igor Strelkov, the pro-Russian separatist leader who is linked to Russian intelligence, claimed that rebels had shot down the “transport plane” in Torez — the same town that the Malaysia Airlines plane went down.

“In the region of Torez AN-26 plane has been shot,” he wrote on Russia’s version of Facebook. “We have warned them — not to fly ‘in our sky.'”

The crew manning the Buk may not have been able to see if it was a civilian or military aircraft — they could just see it was an aircraft in their airspace — if it wasn’t integrated with a system that would have made such recognition possible.

In any event, the Russians and their proxies appear to have been caught red-handed in the tragic case of MH17.

A Buk missile system Wikimedia Commons

Armin Rosen contributed to this report.