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July 18, 2014



I'm not as confident as he is that this means the end of Russian support. It just means they downgrade from large, complex tracked vehicles abandoned near the border with keys in the ignition to boxes of small arms that mysteriously fell off the truck.

I'm also curious about why they were shooting at something at 30,000 feet. Anything at that height so close to the border isn't going to land in Ukraine. I doubt the Buk is a 'hit the button Ivan!' system. Which means they were trained enough to read the airliner's transponder info and fired anyway, or they just hit a button to see what would happen.

nick s

Perhaps just well-trained enough to be dangerous, and far too enthusiastic about playing with all the toys from Uncle Vlad that they've read so much about.

I wouldn't be surprised if a few local heavies in Donetsk have unexpected and explosively fatal accidents in the coming weeks.

Dan Hardie

'I'm also curious about why they were shooting at something at 30,000 feet.'

Having spent time in Ukraine, I'm less curious about that- I suspect that all concerned had downed massive quantities of alcohol.

And like Nick, I also suspect that an hour or so after the airliner was shot down, various officers in the FSB and the Russian army got an order stating something like 'make a list of the people who got those missiles and cross the names off once you've done the necessary'.

nick s

And it's a reminder of the limits of arsehole management: you can book coaches to take general purpose arseholes into town for a head-bashing excursion, and you can let especially psychotic arseholes indulge their paramilitary fantasies with some ultraviolence against your own separatists, but as a state entity, you don't exactly want the paramilitary types leading head-bashers in foreign territory.

Not ideal for Putin if the Donetsk Arsehole Irregulars had a few ringers in from Chechnya who were all "I've seen one of these before!"


Course the uber-masculine Bandera lovers of Pravy Sektor - now starring in the National Guard and the Azov battalion have a much misunderstood fem side - right?


Sure, but they didn't shoot down that airplane. That's the sort of thing that deligitimizes your militia compared to the heavily armed drunken bozos on the other side, who seem to be under better control. Not that you have to be good to be better than that.


Bill Sweetman in Aviation Leak explains:


The IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) is installed on the search radar, deployed with the battery command post. The fire-control radar is integrated on the fire unit, but it doesn't have the ability to query transponders, it's a pure primary radar. Doctrinally, the search radar (and perhaps higher-level sensors networked in) monitor the airspace and identify potential targets. Battery command decides what to engage and which fire unit to task, and passes the track on.

There is also a back-up mode in case the search radar or the battery CP is lost, in which the target is acquired with the fire control radar, in local control. This doesn't provide any IFF information, though. This AP wire story refers to someone spotting planes visually and phoning the SA-11 crew.


actually he only heard it:

The man identified as Bezler responds: "Reconnaissance plane or a big one?"

"I can't see behind the clouds. Too high," the spotter replies.


That's really a very Soviet design philosophy, isn't it? In the runup-to-war phase, when the missile system - one CP vehicle, two TELAR vehicles - is all deployed and networked up as per the Haynes manual, it can discriminate between friendlies, hostiles and civilians. But as soon as the (large, obvious, noisily EM-emitting) CP vehicle is destroyed by, say, a passing Apache, the very architecture of the system dictates that it defaults to "KILL EVERYTHING THAT YOU CAN SEE". Because by the time NATO is hitting your SAM sites, there's probably very little Warsaw Pact aviation left flying...


Though, having written it, that point seems close to the slightly nutty-sounding proof that the Warsaw Pact was bent on aggression based on the maximum depression of the cannon in the turret of a BMP...

Chris Williams



It would have sounded nuttier, but the "General" in front of the name of the chap explaining it to me gave it some (possibly undeserved) artificial gravitas*.

The idea being, you see, that a Bradley or a Warrior had (say) 10 degrees of depression, so it could easily sit on the reverse slope of a hill and shoot horizontally with nothing but the thermal sight and the top of the turret visible. But your BMP-3 couldn't depress at all, so in order to shoot from the reverse slope of a hill it would have to expose pretty much all of itself, therefore it was clearly not designed to be defensive on reverse slopes, but to be aggressive while charging across plains.

*Iain M Banks, still greatly missed.

Richard J

I think it's fair to say that both sides were fundamentally defensive in strategy in the Cold War. The war plans of both sides were careful to note that they would always be in response to an invasion by another side.

That said, while the response of NATO after that was to, basically, die with honour in a dogged retreat to the IJssel before the nukes went flying, the Warsaw Pact plan was a massive counterattack onto FRG territory.

Operationally, I thinks its fair to say the Warsaw Pact had an aggressive doctrine, and all their equipment was based round this.

(Eric Schlosser's Command and Control makes the very good point I hadn't previously grasped about how sluggish any early Cold War nuclear response had been. Until the mid 50s, it would have taken the USAF at least a fortnight to put the bombs together...)

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