Newspaper article International New York Times

Jet Wreckage Bears Signs of Impact by Supersonic Missile, Analysis Shows

Newspaper article International New York Times

Jet Wreckage Bears Signs of Impact by Supersonic Missile, Analysis Shows

Article excerpt

A piece from the Malaysia Airlines plane in Ukraine had damage consistent with that from a fragmenting warhead, the kind carried by an SA-11 missile.

A piece of wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 that was shot down in eastern Ukraine last week bears telltale marks of small pieces of high-velocity shrapnel that apparently crippled the jet in flight. Riddled with these perforations and buffeted by a blast wave as it flew high above the conflict zone, the plane then most likely sheared apart.

The wreckage, photographed by two reporters for The New York Times in a field several miles from where the largest concentration of the Boeing's debris settled, suggests that the destruction of the aircraft was caused by a supersonic missile that apparently exploded near the jet as it flew 33,000 feet above the ground, according to an analysis of the photographs by IHS Jane's, the defense consulting firm.

The damage, including the shrapnel holes and blistered paint on a panel of the destroyed plane's exterior, is consistent with the effects of a fragmenting warhead carried by an SA-11 missile, known in Russian as a Buk, the type of missile that American officials have said was the probable culprit in the downing of the plane.

It is impossible from these photographs of the damaged plane to determine what specific model of missile was used. But the SA-11 is a member of a class of weapon that carries a fragmenting warhead with a proximity fuze. If a missile like that functioned as designed, it would cause damage like that evident in the debris of Flight 17.

"The perforation holes that are visible indicate that they are consistent with a foreign object entering from the exterior of the aircraft to the interior of the aircraft, given the contour of the aluminum around a majority of the perforations as well as the visible blistering of the paint around some of the holes themselves," Reed Foster, an analyst at IHS Jane's, wrote in an assessment provided to The Times.

He added: "Most of the smaller holes look to be caused by a high- velocity projectile, as opposed to simple shearing or tearing caused by the forceful separation of the panel from the airframe."

Mr. Foster also noted that the shrapnel damage was different from what he would expect after an aircraft engine explosion, which could cause "longer, thinner, oblique tears across the aircraft skin."

His observations were consistent with the profile of surface-to- air antiaircraft missiles designed to destroy fast-moving military aircraft at high elevations. Rather than striking an aircraft directly, missiles in this class fly a course that is designed to intercept the targeted aircraft and explode beneath it, creating a cloud of shrapnel.

At the end of the missiles' flight, they act "more like a shotgun than a rifle," Mr. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.