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The first missile was radar-controlled and proximity fuzed, and detonated 50 metres (160 ft) behind the aircraft. Sending fragments forward, it either severed or unraveled the crossover cable from the left inboard elevator to the right elevator. This, with damage to one of the four hydraulic systems, caused KAL 007 to ascend from 35,000 to 38,250 feet (10,670 to 11,660 m), at which point the autopilot was disengaged.
Shrapnel from the proximity fuzed air-to-air missile that detonated 50 metres (160 ft) behind the aircraft, punctured the fuselage and caused rapid decompression of the pressurized cabin. The interval of 11 seconds between the sound of missile detonation picked up by the cockpit voice recorder and the sound of the alarm sounding in the cockpit enabled ICAO analysts to determine that the total size of the ruptures to the pressurized fuselage was 1.75 square feet (0.163 m2)
But the Ukrainian air force also suffered losses. On July 12th a Ukrainian attack helicopter was shot down over eastern Ukraine. Two days later an Antonov An-26 military jet suffered the same fate. Another two days later two Suchoi Su-25 fighter jets were downed.
Experts say not all of these airplanes could have been hit by shoulder-fired missiles. The targeting of the two Su-25 and the Antonov suggest the use of complex weapons systems such as BUKs (according to Poroshenko and the Ukrainian themselves by AAM). In response to the new military situation, Ukraine changed its fighter jet strategy.
A Ukrainian Security Council spokesman said fighter jets were later deployed more cautiously due to losses in the first phase of the “anti-terror operations”.
Besides the Su-25 planes, the Ukrainian air force also uses MiG-29 fighter jets that can reach an altitude of 18 000 meters. The jets then drop down to a lower combat altitude to attack enemy tanks and BUK units. A BUK team risks its life if it does not already attack an enemy plane at a high altitude during its approach.
Civil air traffic granted Ukrainian fighter pilots valuable seconds in their fight for survival against BUKs. Ukrainian fighter jets have the ability to hide just beneath passenger planes without the civilian passengers and crew even knowing of their presence. Anyone who targets a fighter jet from the ground risks shooting down a passenger aircraft.
A spokesman for the Ukrainian Security Council said Ukraine did not deploy combat aircraft on July 17th. The spokesman did not respond to questions about civilian flights.
July 17th did not begin well for the crew of BUK 3*2. That morning, the Ukrainian Security Council reported the destruction of three Russian tanks – which officers of the 53rd air defense brigade are tasked to protect. The Russian soldiers had failed, and they were under pressure not to allow a repeat incident.
Smid tells us: “There is no doubt: flight MH17 was shot down by a missile. And this missile was fired from the ground and not from a fighter jet.
Smid’s information is confirmed by Harry Horlings, a former Dutch fighter pilot, who was trained by the U.S. Air Force. Only a rocket fired from the ground has the explosive power displayed in the destruction of MH17, Horlings says.