The U.S. Pentagon “increasingly suspects” UIA Flight 752 was shot down by the Russian-designed Tor missile system, also known as the SA-15 Gauntlet. All 176 people on board were killed when the Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737-800 crashed shortly after take-off from Imam Khomeini International Airport on Wednesday morning.
Iran has claimed technical issues were to blame and that the plane bound for Kiev was on fire before it fell to the ground. Initially, the Ukrainian Embassy in Tehran mirrored the regime, but has since retracted their original statement.
Independent aviation operations experts cast doubt on Iran’s version of the story almost immediately, insisting a “shootdown” was the most likely cause.
“We would recommend the starting assumption to be that this was a shootdown event, similar to MH17 – until there is clear evidence to the contrary,” aviation risk monitoring group OPS said in a statement.
The Russian-designed anti-missile system is also known by its NATO reporting name, or code name the SA-15 Gauntlet. It is an all-weather, low-medium altitude short-range surface-to-air missile system designed for engaging aircraft, helicopters, and short-to-medium range ballistic threats.
Worth noting, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) reporting names are code names for military equipment made by China, Russia and other nations formerly in the Warsaw Pact.
Pentagon sources noted that the system would have been turned on after the Iranian missile attack on Wednesday morning if Tehran anticipated a U.S. military response.
U.S. satellites detected the launch of two missiles shortly before UIA Flight 752 crashed, and evidence of an explosion followed shortly thereafter. Sources stressed that it is believed the shootdown was accidental.
President Trump addressed the rising suspicion at a press conference for an unrelated event on Thursday.
“I have my suspicions,” President Trump said. “It’s a tragic thing when I see that. It’s a tragic thing.”
“But somebody could have made a mistake on the other side.”
A source from Boeing Company (^BA), who spoke to PPD on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to make a statement, said the U.S. manufacturer does not believe a 3-year-old airplane that just underwent inspection days before caught on fire.
“That aside, an engine fire doesn’t rule out a missile,” the source said. “A missile strike itself could’ve caused the fire. The explanation is ridiculous and the conclusion is more than suspicious.”
Iran said it will not grant Boeing access to the black box recorder, and it’s unclear whether Canada or Ukraine will either. At least 63 Canadians were killed.
Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Canadian officials need “to be quickly granted access to Iran to provide consular services, help with identification of the deceased and take part in the investigation of the crash.”
“Canada and Canadians have many questions which will need to be answered.”
Ukraine Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danylov said they want investigators to have access to the site to search for possible missile debris after viewing unverified images purportedly showing debris resembling the Tor missile system.
He referred to an unverified image circulated on Iranian social media purportedly showing the debris of a Russian-made Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile of the kind used by the Iranian military.
Mr. Danylov said the Ukrainian team includes experts who participated in the investigation of the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17, 2014.
UPDATE: Multiple news outlets are now reporting U.S. officials are “confident” Ukrainian International Airlines (UIA) Flight 752 was accidentally shot down by Iran. The consensus for the culprit appears to be as PPD initially reported—the SA-15 Gauntlet, otherwise known as the Russian-designed Tor missile system.