Missile system suspected of bringing down airliner: short range, fast and deadly
10/01/2020 12:41, Ottawa/Canada

(TAP) - Canada said on Thursday that a surface-to-air missile brought down a Ukrainian airliner in Tehran, while the Ukrainian government said it was investigating reports of debris from a Russian-made Tor-M1 missile.

The Tor, also called the SA-15 Gauntlet by NATO, is a short-range "point defence" system that integrates the missile launcher and radar into a single tracked vehicle.

It is designed to be mobile and lethal against targets at altitudes up to 6,000 metres (20,000 feet) and at ranges of 12 km (7.5 miles), according to the Federation of American Scientists, which researches and analyses "catastrophic threats to national and international security."

Military aircraft and cruise missiles - which the Tor system is designed to destroy - typically plot their courses to avoid being spotted on radar. They are equipped with systems such as chaff, which confuses radar, and flares, which act as decoys for heat-seeking missiles.

The jet that crashed on Wednesday, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, a Boeing 737-800, would have filed a flight plan and had no defensive features.

It was unlikely the flight crew had time to react to any missile, said Michael Duitsman, a research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

"They probably wouldn't have even seen it coming," Duitsman said. "Right after takeoff, the pilots were probably preoccupied with other things."

To attack a target, the Tor operator must identify it on the radar screen and direct the missile to launch.

Commercial air flights have transponders - radio transmitters that broadcast their identity, speed and altitude at an internationally agreed frequency. There were several other civilian aircraft nearby when Flight 752 crashed just a few kilometres from the airport.

All of those aircraft would have been visible on the radar screen of the Tor battery as well as civilian radar at the airport.

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