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British Aviation Expert Says Russian MH17 Claims Highly Unlikely

  • Glenn Kates

Russian defense officials sit in front of a map of air-defense locations in the area of Donetsk during a briefing by Russian Lieutenant General Andrei Kartopolov and Lieutenant General Igor Makushev in Moscow on July 21 to present Moscow's view of the MH17 downing.

Russian defense officials sit in front of a map of air-defense locations in the area of Donetsk during a briefing by Russian Lieutenant General Andrei Kartopolov and Lieutenant General Igor Makushev in Moscow on July 21 to present Moscow's view of the MH17 downing.

According to a British aviation expert, Russian charges that a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet may have shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 are "fairly incredible."

"Loaded with missiles and bombs, [the Su-25's] maximum altitude is five kilometers," says David Gleave, an aviation and safety researcher at Loughborough University. "We know that MH17 was flying at 10 kilometers high."

At a July 21 press conference -- held amid mounting evidence that MH17 had been shot down by a Buk missile fired by pro-Russian separatists -- members of Russia's general staff claimed that an Su-25 with air-to-air missiles had been detected within three to five kilometers of the doomed plane.

Gleave, a former accident investigator, says it is conceivable, although extremely unlikely, that the alleged fighter jet could have attempted a maneuver in which it nose-dived and then flipped skyward to shoot the missile from more than three kilometers below the Malaysian airliner.

Moscow had claimed that the Su-25 was flying at the same altitude as Flight 17.

Stranger about the Russian claims, though, is that Ukraine does have Su-27 fighter jets in its arsenal -- a series that would have been capable of flying at altitude with MH17.

"[For the Russians to say] that [the Ukrainians] would use the Frogfoot" -- NATO's term for the Su-25 -- "is a particularly bizarre choice of airplane because it's purposely designed to fly at very low levels and be agile down there," Gleave said.

On July 22, the U.S. government released a satellite photo that it said showed the trajectory of the Buk missile pro-Russian separatists allegedly fired from the ground to shoot down MH17.

Gleave says that pictures he has seen from the crash site -- which show indents on the exterior of the plane -- appear to indicate a strike from a missile.

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