Iran accuses poor communication and misaligned battery of shooting down jet plane

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Tehran, Iran – A misaligned missile battery, poor communication between troops and their commanders, and a decision to fire without authorization led Iranian Revolutionary Guards to shoot down a Ukrainian airliner in January, killing 176 people in edge, according to a new report. The report released on Saturday evening by the Iranian Civil Aviation Organization comes months after the January 8 crash near Tehran. Authorities initially denied any responsibility, only changing course a few days later after Western countries presented ample evidence that Iran had shot down the plane.

The report could signal a new phase of the accident investigation, with the plane’s black box flight recorder to be sent to Paris, where international investigators can finally examine it.

The shooting took place the same night that Iran launched a ballistic missile attack targeting American soldiers in Iraq, its response to the American drone strike that killed Guard General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on January 3.

The plane, on its way to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, carried 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents, as well as many Iranians and 11 Ukrainians, officials said. The route was popular with those traveling to Canada.

At the time, Iranian troops were preparing for an American counterattack and appear to have mistaken the aircraft for a missile. The civil aviation report does not recognize this, saying only that a change in the “level of vigilance of Iran’s air defense” has allowed previously scheduled air traffic to resume.

The report details a series of moments when the fall of Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 could have been prevented.

The report indicates that the surface-to-air missile battery targeting the Boeing 737-800 has been moved and has not been properly redirected.

Missile battery officials were unable to contact their command center, identified civilian theft as a threat, and opened fire twice without obtaining senior officials’ approval, the report said.

“If everyone had not appeared, the plane would not have been targeted,” said the report.

Western intelligence officials and analysts believe that Iran shot down the plane with a Russian-made Tor system known to NATO as SA-15. In 2007, Iran took delivery of 29 Tor M1s from Russia under a contract valued at $ 700 million. The system is mounted on a tracked vehicle and carries a radar and an eight-missile pack.

The report does not say why the Guard moved the air defense system, although this area near the airport is home to both regular military personnel and paramilitary Guard bases.

The report noted that the Ukrainian flight had done nothing extraordinary until the launch of the missile, with its transponder and other data released.

“When the first missile was fired, the aircraft was flying at normal altitude and trajectory,” the report said.

The plane had just taken off from Imam Khomeini International Airport when the first missile exploded, possibly damaging its radio equipment, the report said. The second missile likely hit the plane directly, as videos that night showed the plane exploding in a ball of fire before crashing into a playground and farmland on the outskirts of Tehran.

The report blames the missile battery crew entirely. Already six people suspected of being involved in the incident have been arrested, reportedly spokesman for the judiciary, Gholamhossein Esmaili, in June. He said that at the time three were released on bail while the other three were still detained.

In recent months, Iran has repeatedly delayed the release of the plane’s so-called black box, which includes data and communications from the flight deck leading to the slaughter. The United States, under international regulations, has the right to participate in the investigation because the aircraft involved was a Boeing.

Iran is to send the black box to France on July 20, where Ukrainian and French experts are expected to examine it, the Iranian news agency IRNA recently reported. Iranian officials did not have the equipment in hand to read the data from the box.

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Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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