Iran's claims for why it couldn't have shot down a Ukrainian airplane aren't adding up
- Following multiple reports that Iran was behind the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, Iran's claim that it wasn't responsible appears to be faltering.
- An Iranian aviation official said it was "scientifically impossible" that their missile hit the plane because the aircraft was flying well short of the more than 30,000 feet (9,000 metres) at which most commercial aircraft fly.
- But US and Canadian intelligence sources reportedly obtained evidence showing two surface-to-air missiles from Iran that struck the plane. The suspected missile system, the SA-15 "Gauntlet," is designed to operate in low to medium altitudes.
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Following allegations from multiple government sources that Iran was likely responsible for shooting down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on Tuesday, Iran's claim that it is "scientifically impossible" for one of its missiles to have downed the plane appears to be faltering.
US and Canadian intelligence obtained evidence of two Soviet-era surface-to-air missiles used by Iran to strike the plane, which was carrying 176 people, CNN reported. US officials said they saw Iranian radar systems lock on the aircraft before it was shot down, according to CNN.
The crash came as the Iranian military launched a barrage of missiles at US and coalition troops on military bases in neighbouring Iraq. All passengers - 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, and 11 Ukrainians, as well as Swedish, Afghan, German, and British nationals - were killed when the plane crashed outside the Iranian capital of Tehran shortly after takeoff.
Iran, which has denied responsibility, said Wednesday that it launched an urgent investigation but would not relinquish the plane's flight recordings.
"We will not give the black boxes to the manufacturer and the Americans," Ali Abedzadeh, the Iranian Civil Aviation Organisation chief, said, according to The Guardian. "It's not yet clear which country the black box will go to for the investigation."
One Iranian aviation official said it was "scientifically impossible" that their missile struck the plane because the aircraft's altitude was 8,000 feet, far short of the more than 30,000 feet (9,000 metres) at which most commercial aircraft fly.
But the missile system suspected of being used, the SA-15 "Gauntlet," is designed to operate at low to medium altitudes. According to the Russian state-sponsored news outlet Sputnik, the system has a tracking range of 15 miles (24 km), and the missiles it fires can reach an altitude of up to 33,000 feet (10,000 metres).
Iran made a $700 million (R9 billion) purchase of the missile-defense batteries from Russia in 2005.
The same Iranian aviation official also said other civilian aircraft were flying at the same altitude, seeming to suggest that the lack of other hits undercut allegations that an Iranian missile downed the plane. The SA-15 system, which can fire up to eight short-range missiles, according to Sputnik, can lock on to several aircraft or inbound missiles.
In addition to Iran's denials, the regime made inflated claims about its capabilities in recent days.
Following the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' firing of 15 missiles at US and coalition forces in Iraq, Iranian officials falsely said it had killed 80 people. US officials denied that any troops were wounded or killed during the strike.
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