Almost no one thinks the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was intentional. It’s hard to imagine an upside for Russia, Russian-backed separatists or Ukraine in blasting out of the sky an airliner full of civilians from nations not involved in the conflict. At the same time, the most capable, modern air-defense missile systems are not simple to operate. So what might have gone wrong that allowed a Buk-M1 missile to take down MH17?
And while that shoot-down does not appear to have been intentional, aviation and defense communities have been concerned for years about terrorists using man-portable air defense systems, or manpads, against airliners. How often have airliners been shot down, either accidentally or intentionally? And how hard is it to do?
I discuss these matters with Bill Sweetman, our international military editor, in Aviation Week’s latest Check 6 podcast. It turns out that the Buk system, designated by NATO as the SA-11 “Gadfly,” presents a particularly deadly combination of features (or lack of them). Listen to Check 6, and tell us what you think.