Spokesmen for the scientific and industrial association Almaz (Diamond) commented on the possibility for Ukrainian missile S-200 to shoot down the Russian passenger plane Tu-154. It was Almaz that developed this type of missiles. Specialists believe, a missile was likely to take the passenger airliner as a target. Moreover, they added, the missiles had never been used in the Crimea since there is lively air traffic in that area.
This is actually the official statement. A spokesman for the company said Tu-154 could be downed “due to a tragic accident.” In his words, the station aimed the missile at the passenger plane instead of the unmanned jet, which was supposed to be the original target.
S-200 missile complex has not been used by the Russian armed forces for long already – it is capable of hitting a target, which is 250 kilometers far and up to 35 kilometers above. So several minutes before the tragedy there were 2 objects in the target area of the missile station: Tu-154 and the unmanned jet. The speed of the latter was higher than of Tu-154 and it was much closer to the guidance station. So the unmanned plane was out of the detection zone after 1 turnaround of the antenna, while Tu-154 was still in there. Besides, the passenger plane had a larger ”efficient reflective surface” that gave a more powerful reflective signal to the station.
Thus, the guidance station could catch the signal from the airliner and set it as the target for a missile. In this case the missile covered the distance of 270 kilometers within 3 minutes and its battle part exploded 20-30 meters far from the plane. The destructive elements of the battle part are over 10 thousand steel balls, up to 5 cm in their diameter. Experts believe the balls riddled the plane and caused the explosion of fuel tanks.
Reuters photo: Workers place the remains of Russia's Sibir airlines Tupolev TU-154 plane in a hangar of Adler airport, October 6, 2001