A Boeing 777 of Malaysian Airlines with 298 people on board was shot down at July 17 by a missile. This blogpost describes the most likely reason: mistaken for a military aircraft.
In July the Ukraine Army is more or less trapped near the Ukraine-Russian border. To be able to advance the Ukraine Army needs to sent in soldiers and equipment to the border by using aircraft. By road it is hardly possible to supply. However many fighter aircraft, helicopters and a large IL76 transport aircraft were shot down by MANPADs (shoulder held surface to air missile). On June 14 a IL76 was shot down while on approach for Luhansk airport. The aircraft was said to be transporting troops and equipment.
To be able to supply the troops near the Ukraine-Russian border without being shot by MANPADs the Ukraine Army needed to fly at higher altitudes and drop equipment from flying aircraft. Luhansk airport was captured by the separatists around July 14 (Tass).
Separatists claim to have stolen a BUK
In the meanwhile the separatists communicating using Twitter they had stolen an Ukraine BUK. The tweet sent at June 29 however showed a photo which was posted on vKontakte in 2011. The Ukraine Army denied the separatists had stolen a BUK,
It seems the supposed stolen BUK was part of an alibi of Russia to be able to sent one or more Russian BUKs to the separatists in Eastern Ukraine.
July 14, Antonov 26 shot down
At July 14 an Antonov 26 of the Ukraine Air Force was shot down near the village of Izvaryne flying at an altitude of 6500 meters. The exact circumstances of this shotdown are unclear. The altitude has not been confirmed nor the weapon used. Most likely the aircraft was shot down by an air to air missile. That is what the Ukraine authorities told the next of kin of one of the pilots. Info on the shotdown in this post.
At a briefing in Kiev later that day which was attended by ambassadors of Western countries, the Ukraine government said that the Antonov was either shot down by a Russian aircraft or Russian supplied surface to air missiles. The separatists could not have downed the aircraft as MANPADs are not able to reach an airport at 6500 meters.
Video of the shotdown here.
In this meeting Kiev also told that the separatists requested Moscow for fighter jets.
July 16, SU-25 shotdown by Russian fighter?
According the Ukraine authorities on Wednesday July 16 at 7:00 PM an Ukraine Air Force SU-25 was shot down by an air to air missile fired from a Russian Air Force aircraft (Telegraph). The shotdown could also be caused by a MANPAD.
In the early morning of July 17 a civil truck was used to transport a Russian army BUK TELAR from Russia to Donetsk. It was first spotted on Ukraine soil near Donetsk. It then was last photographed in Snizhne. The owner of the truck later told it was stolen from his company located in Donetsk.
A TELAR is a vehicle on tracks which is able to launch four surface to air missiles. It can launch missiles without assistence of any other vehicle. In normal operations a TELAR is part of a group of vehicles (battery). A battery has at least a command vehicle , a vehicle with an advanced radar system and several TELARs.
A single TELAR is very vulnerable for attacks by enemy fighterjets. As soon as the radar of the TELAR is switched on it can easy be detected by Ukraine fighterjets. When the location has been found the TELAR is an easy target for a SU-25.
So a TELAR crew will switch on the radar only when required. That is, when a target has been spotted. To spot targets the human eye is used. In a distance of about 30-50 km someone is positioned to monitor the sky for targets. If a target is spotted, he will contact the crew of the TELAR over phone.
Sometime on July 17 but before the shotdown of MH17 Andrei Lysenko, spokesman of the Ukraine National Security Council told at a pressconference he had intelligence the separatists had a BUK system. He added the BUK would be destroyed.The exact time of the pressconference is yet unknown. The Wall Street Journal reported that US Intelligence indicated that separatists has three BUK systems.
At July 17 a flight attendant working for the Ukraine airline Windrose was arrrested. He was suspected of helping the separatists by sending text messages with info on departure times of Ukraine Air Force aircraft to separatist leaders. He also handed over a drawing of the Dnepropetrovsk airport. The article states the flight attendant was in contact with Igor Bezler (Безлеру (“Беса” in Russian language). He is a Major General of the “Donetsk People’s Republic”
Possibly this person sent a SMS text message to the separatists annoucing the departure of a military aircraft from Dnepropetrovsk airport.
On July 17, 2014, at 16:18, so 2 minutes before the crash of Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 MH17, Bezler received a phone call from an informant called “Naimanets” suggesting that a “high flying bird” was heading his way. Most likely the spotter believed the high bird was an Ukraine Air Force transport aircraft.
The aircraft could either be an Antonov 26 or an Ilyushin IL76. A source working in the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine had stated that an IL-76 flew close to MH17 at the time of the crash. (source)(another source). The spotter was unable to identify the type of aircraft because it was flying too high and in clouds.
Also at 16:18 the transponder data transmitted by MH17 became unreliable according avherald.com. Avherald is a reliable website reporting on aviation crashes and incidents. What exactly “unreliable” means is not clear. Sputniknews, a Russian newssite, reported on unreliable GPS signal over Eastern Ukraine.
As soon as the spotter told Bezler the target was seen the BUK TELAR switched on the radar. It then takes about 10 seconds before the radar can be used. The crew of the TELAR was not trained in autonomous mode. All training in Russia is done using the radar vehicle and a command vehicle. The order to fire is given by an experienced commander. There are many safety measures which prevents shotting down a civil aircraft . However at July 17 the TELAR was alone, and the crew was aware than as soon as the radar was switched on it could be detected by SU-25 aircraft. So they had little time to press the button.
A TELAR does have a IFF system able to detect friendly or enemy aircraft. However IFF will show an enemy aircraft for both MH17 as for Ukraine Air Force aircraft.
Two minutes later MH17 was shot down.
A group of separatists lead by a Russian commander called Igor Bezler (Bes for short) was responsible for the shotdown according a leaked conversation. The conversation is here.
At 16:50 (17:50 Moskow time) Igor Strelkov, Russian leader of Lugansk People Republic terrorist group, writes on his vKontake page that the separatists shot down an Antonov 26 over Torez. He wrote that the separatists warned Ukraine Air Force not to fly in their sky.
Severall eyewitnesess reported they saw one or two military jets over the area where MH17 crashed. This could be true. It could be these aircraft were searching for the BUK TELAR.
Most likely MH17 was shot down by error. It happened before when an Iran Air Airbus A300 was shot down by US Navy in 1988. In 1980 an Italian DC9 operated by Itavia was shot down by a missle. In 2001 a Siberia Airlines Tupolev 154 was shot down by an Ukraine S-200 surface to air missile.by