In the first week of March a new story appeared about MH17 was shotdown by a R-60 air to air missile. The story started at various vKontakte pages (Russian Facebook) and quickly spread via Pro Russia websites. Some examples of websites covering the same story are :
The story is that a rod part of the R-60 missile was photographed in debris of MH17. A photo made by Dutch reporter Jeroen Akkermans plays an important part in the story. The original photo of Akkermans can be seen here.
Interesting is that the story is covered at many websites. They all use the same information and same photos.
Some background on the R-60 missile.
The R-60 missile (wikipedia) (NATO codename AA-8 Aphid) is a Sovjet developed air to air missile used to destroy enemy aircraft. NATO nicknamed the missile aphid which is a lice. There is a reason NATO named a small rocket to a small animal like the lice.
The R-60 has a very small 6-kilogram (13.2-pound) explosive warhead. The warhead of R-60 missiles contains:
- wolfram (tungsten) wire rods
- some versions of the R-60 have depleted uranium wrapped around the core of the missile to assist the small explosive charge in destroying targeted aircraft. The missile warhead is radioactive. See the photo below for the radioactive sign.
Russian weapons designers added the uranium belt to the missile in order to knock-out western aircraft using the dense metal as a way to punch through heavily armored sections of U.S. made jets.
The R-60M missiles are equipped with an advanced laser destruct system that detonates the warhead when it passes close to a target aircraft.
A lot of info on the R-60 here in Russian language.
The story about SU-25 using its cannon to shot down MH17 is nonsense
Before we focus on the Air to Air missile lets have a look at the story of MH17 was hit by cannon as well. German Peter Haisenko believes MH17 was hit by bullets of a SU-25 cannon.
There has been a lot of discussion if a SU-25 can operate at 10 km/ Sukhoi, the manufacturer of the SU-25 states at its website the service level is 7000 km. The SU-25 can operate very briefly at 10km but without weapons. I am not discussing if a SU-25 can fly at 1o km any further because it is irrelevant if your read on.
The SU-25 has a very powerful cannon. The main purpose of the aircraft is to destroy tanks while operating at low altitude. The cannon on the SU-25 is a GSh-30-2 30mm cannon with 2 barrels (Wikipedia)
The cannon has a recoil force like any gun has. This is the force (or kick ) when a shot is fired. Remember when you shot a weapon you feel the force in your shoulder. When the cannot is used the nose of the aircraft will drop.
The recoil force for a GSh-6-30A which has 6 gun barrels is 5,500 kg or about 54 kN. Lets assume the recoil force for the Gsh-30-2 is half so about 27 kN. I could not find data on the recoil force for the Gsh-30-2
The 2 engines of the SU-25 (2 × Soyuz/Gavrilov R-195 turbojets) provide 44.18 kN (9,921 lbf) each. So total forward force (thrust) is almost 90 kN. So about a third of the engine thrust is lost when the cannon is used. When the aircraft flies at 10 km in thin air the thurst of the engines is reduced a lot compared to performance at sea level. Roughly the trust of an engine at 10 km altitude is about 1/5 of the thrust at sealevel. So very roughly the trust of a SU-25 at 10 km altitude is 18 kN. When the cannon is used, the recoil force is 27 kN. 18 kN minus 27 kN equals a reverse thrust of 9 kN.
Simply said: A SU-25 flying above its service level of 7000 meters using its cannon would simply stall. The maximum range of the cannon makes it impossible it could be used against MH17.
If you want to know more about recoil force see a video about the A-10. The A-10 as the same role as the SU-25, destroy tanks.
Here is the video. A A-10 pilot says: “it (the barrel) produces as much recoil as the engines produces forward thrust.Theoretically if you had all the ammunition and could hold the trigger down long enough the airplane would become to a comple stop because the gun would win the <not able to hear> but meant is engine thurst”
So that is why the chief designer of the SU-25 states the aircraft will crash when cannon is used at 10 km. (source)
The range of the cannon is about 500 to 1500 meters at max. Suppose the SU-25 flew at a lower altitude. It then could not fly horizontally to hit MH17. It has to climb to be able to use it cannon. When the wings are not horizontal there is reduced lift. So more thrust is needed. Besides it is incredible difficult to hit the Boeing 777.
Besides the thurst a SU-25 cannot fly as fast as a Boeing 777 at cruise level. So it can never pursuit MH17.
Another reason why a cannon is simply impossible is the distribution of the holes in the area left of the cockpit. Many holes in a small area. The ballistics of bullets simply makes it impossible to hit a small area with so many bullets. Remember the SU-25 only has 250 rounds of ammunition.
The next reason why a SU-25 is not able to shot down a civil aircraft flying at cruise level using a cannon is that fact that the engines of the SU-25 need to be set at idle Throttle and lowest rotations per minute of engines. The SU-25 will lose speed because of that. At 10 km it already does not have maximum thrust because of the thin air.
The SU-25 also lacks electronic devices to assist the pilot in gunning down a target. The gunsight of a SU-25 cannot help with targetting the cannon against fast moving air targets. Fighters which are designed for killing enemy aircraft have a ballistic computer which measures target speed and course of target and show the pilot LEAD mark (where will be target) or even targeting gun in proper direction. The SU-25 however is a close-support jet plane, not a fighter. So this plane has gunsight type Klen-PS which very useful against ground targets but not air targets. And this gunsight cannot find the range to the target if the target does not stay directly in center.
Last but not least: the SU-25 is used against tanks and low flying helicopters. Pilots are trained to destroy these targets. Pilots are not trained to shot down civil aircraft flying at altitudes the SU-25 was not designed for.
The story about a found R-60 rod is nonsense and here is why
Lets focus on the story. It is nonsense for the following reasons:
- The chief designer of the SU-25, Wladimir Babak who is Russian, states a SU-25 could never have shot down MH1. The SU-25 could reach 10km for a very short time, but it would crash if it used it weapons. The designer who worked on the SU-25 for 35 years said the aircraft is designed for low flying operations to destroy tanks. German main news Tagesschau reports on March 10 the story.
- Some of the articles claim there are three cases of aircraft presumably shot down by a BUK. Here is a links to those statements (Colonel Cassad) referencing to (evanesce-girl)
The three aircraft which are (incorrectly) said to be shot down by a BUK SA-11 are:
-Antonov 26 at July 14 above East Ukraine
-Tu-22 M3, South Ossetia, August 2008
-Tu-154 Siberia Airlines, above Black Sea, October 2001Of all three shotdowns only the Tu-22 in 2008 is confirmed by BUK SA-11.
The Tu-154 was shot down by a S-200. See for instance Wikipedia. It is even mentioned in the evanesce-girl blogposting! The S-200 is a totally different SAM than the BUK. It uses for instance round fragments which the BUK SA-11 warhead does not have. So damage and likelyhood of destroy cannot be compared.
Regarding the Antonov 26 shot down at July 14 much is unknown about the cause. Rebels said they did not have a BUK. Ukraine authorities say it was shot down by an air to air missile. A blogpost about possible causes of the antonov 26 shot down is here.So comparing these three shot downs does not make sense at all. Colonol assad website did not take any effort to mention that the Tu154 was shot down by a different weapon than a BUK!
- The R-60 uses continious rod to damage and destroy targets. These rods are pencil shaped pieces of wolfraam (also known as tungsten). The photo in the story however shows a thick object of an unknown material. The object is slightly bended.
The photo below shows the remains of an AIM-7 Sparrow missile used in the Vietnam war. The long thin pieces are the rods.
The other two drawings show similar small rods. A clear difference between the object in the photo above and the rods can be seen.
- Other photos of the same MH17 debris show the object supposed to be a R-60 rod much clearer. Look as the photos below. The objects are bended. A rod is made of wolfram which does certainly not bend like shown on the photos. Photos made by Jeroen Akkermans and edited by Eliot Higgins.
- A few stories say the device on the photo is the core of a R-60. That is pure nonsense. The core consists of explosives. The explosive will push out the rods and giving them even more kinetic energy than from the speed the missile has.
- The R-60 has a damage radius of 2.5 meter. Damage observed to MH17 is from the cockpit to at least the engine nacelles. That distance is about 15 to 2o meters. The left wing of MH17 shows damage. The blogs mentions the right engine was hit. It is impossible for a single missile to damage the right engine and the left wing.
- The R-60 is a relative light weapon. The warhead is 3 to 3,5 kg depending the version of the missile. A R-60 was used against a Botswana HS125 small business jet. The engine was hit, ripped of the fuselage but the aircraft was able to make an emergency landing. It was later repaired. The picture below shows the damaged Hs125.
- The Russian Air Force shot down a Korean Air Lines Boeing 707 using R-60. The aircraft was able to make an emergency landing. Photos are here.
- The object in the photo which is claimed to be a rod is not straight. It seems bended. Seeing the material of R-60 is thungsten which is very strong it is unlikely a rod is bended after impact.
- The radar recording of Rostov radar released by Russia does not show any military aircraft. So how could a R-60 missile have hit MH17 when no aircraft close enough to launch a rocket? For prove of no aircraft on radar see this blogpost.
- There are many indications for a BUK being used. A long list.
- The damage pattern of rods is completely different than observed on damage of MH17. The photo below shows part of a wing of a Skyhawk A4 aircraft of the Argentinian Air Force. It was shot down by a UK Sidewinder air to air missile on June 8 1982 from a RAF Harrier.
- According to the article a rod weighs about 3 gram. The object in this photo does not look to weigh 3 grams.
- The photo used in the story is certainly not of a R-60 missile. The missile has a diameter of 120 mm . Looking at the photo the diameter is at the most 80 mm.
In fact the photo above is of a former Sovjet Sh-361 shell used in 76.2mm gun during World War 2.