Iran acknowledged on Tuesday that its armed forces fired two Russian anti-aircraft missiles at a Ukrainian jetliner that crashed after taking off from Tehran's main airport earlier this month, killing all 176 people on board. But the new preliminary report by Iran's Civil Aviation Organization stopped short of blaming the missiles for the crash of the Boeing 737-800, flown by Ukraine International Airways.
For days after the Jan. 8 shootdown, Iran denied that it fired missiles at the plane, initially blaming a technical malfunction and engine fire for the crash.
However, after the U.S. and Canada blamed missile fire, Iran's armed forces said anti-aircraft fire from the country's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard had downed the flight. The Guards' aerospace commander Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh accepted full responsibility, but said the missile operator who opened fire acted independently.
The new report identified the missiles fired at the aircraft as coming from the TOR-M1. In 2017, Iran received the delivery of 29 TOR-M1 units from Russia under a contract worth an estimated $700 million.
However, the report said, "The impact of these missiles on the accident and the analysis of this action under is under investigation."
Separately, Tehran said it's asked the U.S. and France for equipment to help analyze the data from the plane's "black boxes" but hasn't gotten a positive response yet, according to Agence France Presse.
The Reuters news agency points out that Iran's request "will add to international frustration at Tehran's failure to send the recorders abroad for analysis."
Surveillance footage earlier obtained by The Associated Press showed two missiles were fired at the plane. The two minutes of black-and-white footage purportedly shows one missile streaking across the sky and exploding near the plane. Ten seconds later, another missile is fired. Some 20 seconds after the first explosion, another strikes near the plane. A ball of flames then falls from the sky out of frame.
The footage corresponded with AP reporting, appeared genuine and matched geographic features of the area. It also explained how so many people filmed the shoot down: The first explosion drew their attention so they turned their mobile phone cameras to the predawn sky.
The Tor short-range air defense system, code-named the SA-15 by NATO, was designed during Soviet times to shoot down aircraft and precision guided weapons.
It's mounted on a tracked vehicle and carries a radar and a pack of eight missiles. Each vehicle can operate independently. Tor has a range of up to 7.5 miles and can hit aerial targets at altitudes of up to roughly 19,700 feet.
Tor missiles explode near their target, taking it down with shrapnel that devastates engines, fuel tanks and other vital components.
First published on January 21, 2020 / 4:32 AM
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