Kiev: While Russia and Ukraine blamed each other for the shocking attack of MH-17, reports emerged of pro-Russian shooting down the plane, supposedly taking it for a Ukrainian Army aircraft. Â
Initial reportsÂ suggested that the plane was shot down at a cruise altitude of 32,800 feet, which meant a ground-based system like the Buk surface-to-air missile was used. Interestingly, a message on the official Twitter account of the Donetsk People’s Republic had announced hours earlier that insurgents had seized a series of Russian-made Buk systems capable of soaring to that height.
“@dnrpress: self-propelled Buk surface-to-air missile systems have been seized by the DNR from (Ukrainian) surface-to-air missile regiment A1402,” said the post. That tweet was later deleted.
The Buk missile system was developed by the Soviet Union in 1979, remaining widely in use throughout the former Soviet states, including Ukraine. It was designed to fight cruise missiles, smart bombs, fixed and rotary-wing aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles.
A standard Buk battalion consists of a command vehicle, target acquisition radar (TAR) vehicle, six transporter erector launcher and radar (TELAR) vehicles and three transporter erector launcher (TEL) vehicles. A Buk missile battery consists of two TELAR and one TEL vehicle.
The battery requires no more than 5 minutes to set up before it is ready for engagement and can be ready for transit again in 5 minutes. The reaction time of the battery from target tracking to missile launch is around 22 seconds
The radar fitted to each TELAR, referred to as the ‘Fire Dome’ by NATO, is a monopulse type radar and can begin tracking at the missile’s maximum range (32Â km/20Â mi) and can track aircraft flying at between 15m and 22km (50 to 72,000Â ft) altitudes. It can guide up to three missiles against a single target.
General Philip Breedlove, the commander of the US European Command, saidÂ that Moscow had been supplying Ukrainian separatists with anti-aircraft weaponry, and held training sessions along the eastern Ukrainian border, teaching rebels how to operate the systems.
Over the past few days, rebels evenÂ shotÂ downÂ two Ukrainian military planes flying at high altitudes. Immediately following the crash, Strelkov wrote on VKontakte: â€œWe warned them not to fly in our sky.â€