Iran shot down Ukrainian Flight 752 using Russian-made SA-15 Tor surface-to-air missile

  • Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crashed in Iran on Wednesday after being hit by what the US and other governments say was an Iranian air-defense missile.
  • The missile system in question, a Russian-made Tor-M1, designated the SA-15 by NATO, is among the best Iran has.

WASHINGTON — American and allied officials said on Thursday that they had intelligence that missiles fired by Iranian military forces were responsible for the downing of a Ukrainian jetliner and the deaths of all aboard this week in Iran, most likely by accident.

A Tor-M1 anti-aircraft defense system

Western intelligence showed that Iran was responsible for the plane crash, suggesting that the deaths of those aboard were a consequence of the heightened tensions between Washington and Iran.

Side by Side Tor M1 missile and the fragmented front warhead (right) identical to that of actual warhead (left)

The disclosures suggested that the deaths were a consequence of the heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran that have played out since an American drone strike killed a top Iranian general last week.

Official Response from America and Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, citing a preliminary review of the evidence, called for a full investigation “to be convinced beyond all doubt.” The jetliner was carrying 63 Canadians among its some 176 passengers and crew.

“We recognize that this may have been done accidentally,” Mr. Trudeau said at a news conference in Ottawa. “The evidence suggests very clearly a possible and probable cause for the crash.”

President Trump, speaking earlier at the White House, said only that he suspected that the downing of the plane was the result of “a mistake on the other side.” Senior American officials were more forthcoming, saying that they had a high level of confidence in their findings. American intelligence agencies determined that a Russian-made Iranian air defense system fired two surface-to-air missiles at the plane, one official said.

Rescue teams work amidst debris after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran on Jan. 8, killing everyone on board. (AFP via Getty Images)

And video verified by The New York Times appeared to show an Iranian missile exploding near a plane above Parand, near Tehran’s airport, the area where the jetliner, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, stopped transmitting its signal before it crashed.

Later in the day, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “evidence indicates the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.”

“This may well have been unintentional,” he added. More than 60 of the victims were Canadian citizens.

What is the SA-15 air defense system?

It is a Russian-made air defense system that allows its operators to shoot down aircraft at relatively close range. It is also known as the Tor air defense.

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SA-15 Interceptor Missile

It is designed to defend against objects flying at medium to very low altitudes and can track up to 48 targets at once, the documents show, with an ability to fire two missiles nearly simultaneously if necessary.

Fire Control Radar of Tor-M1

Tor missile is designed to be mobile and lethal against targets at altitudes up to 6,000 meters (20,000 feet) and at ranges of 12 km (7.5 miles), according to the Federation of American Scientists, which researches and analyses “catastrophic threats to national and international security.” Iran has 15 of SA-15 or Tor-M1 missile system.

To attack a target, the Tor operator must identify it on the radar screen and direct the missile to launch.

Commercial air flights have transponders — radio transmitters that broadcast their identity, speed and altitude at an internationally agreed frequency. There were several other civilian aircraft nearby when Flight 752 crashed just a few kilometers from the airport.

All of those aircraft would have been visible on the radar screen of the Tor battery as well as civilian radar at the airport.

How did Iran get SA-15 system?

Russian officials announced in 2007 that they had delivered the Tor M-1 system, also known as the SA-15, to Tehran. The Guardian reported that year that Iran had obtained 29 of the systems under the terms of a $700 million contract.

Ukrainian Response

Ukraine is sending a team of 45 personnel to Iran, including experts who helped with the investigation into the July 2014 Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash and specialists responsible for taking home the bodies of 11 Ukrainians who were on board that flight.

As The Post reported, Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, posted on Facebook that his team would like to look for evidence the plane was possibly taken down by a missile.

Although it was a Boeing plane, it could be complicated for U.S. officials to participate in investigations because of U.S. sanctions in place against Iran.

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