Clearing the Air (MH17 Shootdown)

Written by The Annoyed Man on . Posted in The World

The shoot down of Malaysian Air flight 17 by Ukrainian rebels is a perfect example of what happens when you arm rebels with sophisticated systems, without training them in the use of those systems. It isn’t enough to know how to “pull a trigger”. ANY idiot can do that. But to take the firearms analogy even further, the 4 basic rules of firearms safety are:

  1. All guns are always loaded.
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
  4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

Now, let’s transfer this analogy to surface-to-air missile systems:

  1. All rocket systems are armed.
  2. Never point the rocket at something you’re not willing to blow up.
  3. Do not flip back the launch button cover until your rocket is targeted.
  4. Be sure of what you are shooting down, it’s mission, it’s cargo, and anything near or under it.

However, there is an element missing here…..and that is the ability to be sure of your target and what’s in its vicinity. The ability is implied in rule 4 of either set of rules. With firearms, it means not shooting if you don't have a clear sight picture. With a surface-to-air missile, it means not launching until you either have a very clear radar picture of your target, or a clear visual picture.

Generally speaking, firearms come with either iron sights (plain, unmagnified sighting systems), red dot sights (unmagnified electronic systems using an illuminated aiming point inside the body of an optical aiming device), OR some kind of magnified optics like a riflescope. These sighting systems all have one thing in common: they help the user to be sure of his/her target, and to be aware of what is in its vicinity or behind (or beneath) it. Being sure of your target means several things, but the MOST important is identification—being sure that bear you’re aiming at isn’t just another hunter in some bushes. Once you fire the shot (or the rocket), you can't recall it. It is on its way to whatever destination you pointed it at, whether or not you intended that target's destruction.

In the case of antiaircraft batteries, it means making sure that the aircraft you intend to shoot down is an enemy military aircraft, and not a civilian airliner full of innocent passengers from a third-party non-combatant nation…….particularly not one full of people bound on a humanitarian mission to rid subsaharan Africa of AIDS. That’s not just a simple “DOH!” You shoot down such a plane, and it makes you a karmic ass-wipe. If you supplied the shooter with the system, without supplying him with the means and training to differentiate, then you are no better a person than the shooter. That’s not guilt by association, it is guilt by implication. You aided and abetted a crime against humanity, and you are also engaging in karmic asswipery.

At an altitude of 33,000 feet, it is virtually impossible to tell the difference between a twin-engine Boeing 777 and a twin-engine Antonov AN-26 with the naked eye. That aircraft is 6.25 miles away……IF it is directly overhead. If it is not overhead, that aircraft is even further away (think of the hypotenuse of a triangle). However, the two aircraft couldn’t be more dissimilar, having only in common that they can fly, have twin engines, and can attain 25,000 feet or more of altitude.

The Antonov AN-26 is a twin-engine turbo-prop cargo plane, just a tad over half the size of a C-130 Hercules. The fuselage is 9 ft wide by 78 ft long and the wingspan is 96 ft from wingtip to wingtip. It has a maximum passenger seating capacity of 40. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 52,900 lb, cruises at 237 knots, and has a service ceiling of 24,600 ft……..a full 8,400 ft LOWER than Malaysian Air flight 17 was flying at when it was shot down. Here is a picture of an AN-26 below (click on image to view enlarged copy):
AN-26 Cargo PlaneAntonov AN-26 Cargo Plane

The Boeing 777-200ER is a twin-engine jetliner which dwarfs an AN-26. Its fuselage is 20ft wide by 209 ft long with a 199 ft wingspan. It has a maximum passenger seating capacity of 440. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 656,000 lb, cruises at 490 knots, and has a service ceiling of 43,100 ft. Here is a picture of a Boeing 777-200ER (click on image to view enlarged copy):
Boeing 777Boeing 777-200ER Airliner

In other words, its fuselage is more than twice as wide and it is more than twice as long. It seats ELEVEN times as many passengers. It has more than double the wingspan. It has SIX TIMES the maximum takeoff weight. It cruises at more than double the speed, and it has a service ceiling 17,500 ft higher than the AN-26. You have to be either brain dead or very drunk to confuse the two aircraft with each other.

Furthermore, the SA-11 “BUK” is a very sophisticated system with advanced targeting capabilities. ( THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL THAT A WELL TRAINED OPERATOR WITH A CONSCIENCE could fail to differentiate between a military transport flying at 230 knots with a service ceiling of 24,600 ft, and a CIVILIAN airliner, 4 times the size and twice as fast, flying at another 30% higher than the AN-26. The targeting system software should be able to tell the difference between an aircraft based on a civilian airframe….like the KC-135 Stratotanker and the Boeing 367-80…and a purpose-built military airframe like a fighter jet, or for that matter, an Antonov AN-26. And any skilled operator would be able to tell the difference on radar.

Therefore, any thinking person with a moral grounding can draw only one of three possible conclusions:

  1. The rooskies never trained the Ukrainian rebel forces on the system….. in other words, they handed a .44 magnum to a monkey and then just walked away. In that case, Russia is equally to blame for what happened.
  2. The Ukrainian rebels were well trained on the system, but they ignored their training in their zeal to get a shoot-down. In that case, they are guilty of 230 counts of criminally negligent homicide, and they should all be imprisoned for the rest of their lives.
  3. The Ukrainian rebels don’t give a damn about anything, and they’ll shoot anything out of the sky without feeling it necessary to make sure of their target. In that case, they should all be executed by being pushed out the back of a C-130 at 33,000 feet.

The rebels are thugs. They are being advised by Russian Spetsnaz, roughly the equivalent of American SEAL or Delta teams, provided by a nation led by a former KGB Colonel, Vladimir Putin…….also a thug, and a dictator with expansionist dreams. The Russian bear was never dead; merely in hibernation.

It is most likely that nobody will ever face justice for this crime against humanity. The Ukrainian rebels are not going to produce the guilty parties, and neither will the Russians. The rest of the world lacks the ability or the will to compel them to be produced. Therefore, they won’t. That culture produces leaders without grace, so the culture won’t compel them to be produced. The only realistic justice we can expect is for the general in command, over that individual commander and crew operating that individual BUK unit which fired its missile, to order that they be taken out back and shot for having placed the rebellion in a bad light.

This is the world we live in today….a world without justice, and in most cases, virtue. We cannot compel it. Only God can.



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