MALAYSIA Airlines Flight 17 was the latest in a long line of civilian planes shot down by rebels, terrorists or military fighter jets.
MALAYSIA Airlines Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur is the latest in a long line of civilian planes shot down by rebels, terrorists or military fighter jets.
In the past, a lack of identification technology or accidental incursions into airspace have been used as an excuse for atrocities.
Today there is no such excuse.
âIt looks less like an accident and more like a crime,â Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.
The destruction of the Malaysian flight, just four months after the loss of flight MH-370 in the Indian Ocean, is a global crime of unimaginable scale.
Experts believe it was either an act of incompetent and ill-trained operators of the pro-Russian separatist movement, or a deliberate and provocative act aimed at escalating the conflict in Ukraine. Either way, Russia must shoulder some responsibility and will be subject to an even more intense sanctions regime from the international community.
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Experts agreed that there was no way an accidental shot could have brought down the plane flying over the nearest one. It was not a simple thermal weapon and the Boeing 777 was deliberately shot down by a surface-to-air missile guided to its target by a sophisticated radar guidance system.
“This is a major piece of conventional weaponry designed for serious war fighting, not militia,” said Dr John Blaxland of ANU.
“There has always been a risk with low-level Stinger-type weapons, but it was an airliner flying at 33,000 feet.”
Regardless of who pulled the trigger and why, 298 innocent lives – including 28 Australians – were taken in the worst airborne mass murder case in history.
And this is not the first time that a civilian plane has been shot down in Ukrainian airspace.
On October 4, 2001, a Siberian Airline Tu-154 airliner crashed over the Black Sea after allegedly being hit by a Russian S-200 missile fired by Ukrainian forces.
No responsibility has ever been claimed, but Ukrainian officials have expressed condolences to the families of the 78 people on board.
Since the end of World War II, more than 20 civilian planes have been lost to military or paramilitary actions.
One of the worst was Iran Air Flight 655 which was shot down from the sky over the Persian Gulf by the US cruiser USS Vincennes on July 3, 1988, causing the loss of 290 people on board.
The plane was en route from Tehran to Dubai and emitted inappropriate identification codes which led the US ship to identify it as a hostile Iranian F-14 fighter jet. When his real identity could not be verified, the cruiser fired a missile.
The United States admitted responsibility and paid Iran $ 62 million in compensation.
During the Cold War, Soviet fighters wiped out several civilian airliners that strayed into its airspace. These included two Korean Airlines flights.
The first, KAL 902, was shot down by a Soviet Su-15 fighter near Murmansk in northern Russia which failed to respond to interceptors.
The plane made an emergency landing on a frozen lake and two of the 109 people on board were killed.
The second tragedy occurred on September 1, 1983 when KAL flight 007, a Boeing 747 jumbo jet, was shot down from the sky by a Soviet Su-15 fighter when it strayed into Soviet airspace near Sakhalin Island with the loss of 269 lives, including US Congressman Larry McDonald.
The pilot’s error was blamed for the heading error, but the Soviets claimed the plane was on a spy mission.
In what would become one of the most serious incidents of the Cold War, the Soviets accused the United States of using the incident to test Soviet defenses or to provoke war.
Closer to home, an Antonov An-24 plane operated by Lionair under flight LN 602 was shot down by Tamil Tigers near the city of Jaffna, killing 55 people.
On February 21, 1973, Libyan Airlines Flight 114 was intercepted by two Israeli F-4 Phantom planes over the Sinai Peninsula. When the offcourse airliner refused to land, it was shot down with the loss of 108 of the 113 people on board.
Attacks on civilian planes are so random that they have involved planes from countries as diverse as Zimbabwe, Italy, Belarus, South Korea and Malaysia. In most cases, it was about the wrong place at the wrong time rather than specific targeting.
The only exception was Pan Am flight 103 from Frankfurt to Detroit on December 21, 1988. The Boeing 747 was detonated by terrorists working for Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi over Lockerbie in Scotland with the loss of 259 people on the plane. and 11 on the ground. .
Civilian airliners often use specific corridors to avoid hot spots such as eastern Ukraine. Several airlines have flown over the conflict zone since the start of the unrest and since military planes were targeted by both sides, but many airlines still use the most direct route between Europe and Asia. from the South East.
Other hot spots such as Pakistan and Afghanistan also have commercial aircraft lanes, but insurgents in those two countries lack the advanced equipment required to take down airliners flying above 10,000. meters.