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.