A misaligned missile battery, miscommunication between troops and their commanders and a decision to fire without authorisation all led to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard shooting down a Ukrainian jetliner in January, killing all 176 people on board, a new report says.
Iran said that an air defence unit’s misaligned radar system was the key “human error” that led to the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January.
Iran’s ‘human error’ led to a hazard chain
“A failure occurred due to a human error in following the procedure” for aligning the radar, causing a “107-degree error” in the system, the Iranian Civil Aviation Organisation (CAO) said in a report late Saturday.
This error “initiated a hazard chain” that saw further mistakes committed in the minutes before the plane was shot down, said the CAO document, presented as a “factual report” and not as the final report on the accident investigation.
A high ranking Ukrainian official, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP the latest announcement “is not particularly credible” because Iran had given many different versions of the story and changed them too often.
Flight 752, a Ukraine International Airlines jetliner, was struck by two missiles and crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran’s main airport on January 8, at a time of heightened US-Iranian tensions.
The Islamic republic admitted several days later that its forces accidentally shot down the Kiev-bound plane, killing all 176 people on board.
Three Britons among 176 passengers killed in Iran crash. Iran’s state news agency, Irna, reports 140 Iranians were travelling on board the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 that crashed after takeoff from Tehran. Terrorism has been ruled out. #IranAttacks #Ukraine
— Nicky Harley (@nickyharley) January 8, 2020
The majority of the passengers on the Boeing 737 were Iranians, with Canadians, Ukrainians, Afghans, Britons and Swedes also aboard.
‘Wrong identification’ by radar system operator
The CAO said that, despite the erroneous information available to the radar system operator on the aircraft’s trajectory, he could have identified it as an airliner, but instead there was a “wrong identification”.
The report also noted that the first of the two missiles launched at the aircraft was fired by a defence unit operator who had acted “without receiving any response from the Coordination Centre” on which he depended.
The second missile was fired 30 seconds later, “by observing the continuity of (the) trajectory of the detected target,” the report added.
The CAO said there was a defect in the transmission to the defence units coordination centre of the data identified by the radar.
An Iranian general had said in January that many communications had been jammed the night of the disaster.
Decode the black boxes
Tehran’s air defences had been on high alert at the time the jet was shot down in case the US retaliated against Iranian strikes hours earlier on American troops stationed in Iraq.
Those strikes were carried out in response to the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a US drone attack near Baghdad airport.
This error "initiated a hazard chain" that saw further errors committed in the minutes before the plane was accidentally shot down in January, says a report by the Iranian Civil Aviation Organization. https://t.co/zqrWLiz65J
— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) July 12, 2020
The aircraft tragedy sparked fierce reprobation in Iran, especially after it took three days for the armed forces to admit having shot down the plane “by accident” after a missile operator mistook it for an enemy projectile.
Ottowa and Kiev have demanded for months that Iran, which does not have the technical means to decode the black boxes, send them abroad so their contents can be analysed.
Canada’s Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne on Sunday urged Iran to ensure “a comprehensive and transparent investigation in accordance with international standards, so that all those responsible are held accountable”.
In late June, France’s Accident Investigation Bureau (BEA) said Iran had “officially requested technical assistance” to retrieve the black box data and said work should begin on July 20.
Champagne said Canada would continue to push “to ensure Iran follows through on its commitments” including transferring the data to the BEA.
In early July, Canada announced that it had reached an agreement in principle with Iran to launch negotiations on compensation for the families of foreign victims of the accident.
The plane, en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, destroyed by Iran’s misaligned radar system, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians — including many Iranians with dual citizenship — and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials. The route was popular with those traveling onward to Canada.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk