A Ukrainian air force Su-25 combat jet took off from an airbase in eastern Dnipropetrovsk carrying air-to-air missiles and returned without them on the day a Malaysia Airlines plane crashed in eastern Ukraine in July, Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reported, citing an airbase employee.
The employee, who claims to be an eyewitness, said on July 17 that three Ukrainian combat jets took off, and that one of them, an Su-25, was carrying air-to-air missiles.
“After a while only one jet [of the three] returned, which had had those missiles… It returned without the missiles. The pilot was very frightened,” the man said. The employee stressed that only the returned Su-25 had been equipped with air-to-air missiles, and said he was sure it was not air-to-ground missiles.
The airbase worker said he remembered the pilot saying “the wrong plane” and “the plane was in the wrong place at the wrong time” after he returned from the flight.
The newspaper interviewee did not exclude the possibility that an Su-25 pilot could confuse a Boeing passenger airliner with a military jet.
“This could be. There was quite a long distance, he could have failed to see what exactly that plane was,” the man said.
The missiles carried by the Su-25 (NATO reporting name Frogfoot) are capable of targeting an object at a 3-5-kilometer (1-3 mile) distance, and to an altitude of 7,000 meters (23,000 feet), the source stressed.
“With jet’s raised nose, it is not a problem to fix a target and launch a missile. The flying range of this missile is over 10 kilometers,” according to the man.
He further said that the missile is capable of hitting a plane fuselage, whether directly or from a distance of 500 meters.
The density of the objects which hit the MH17 was very high, and these findings did not exclude the downing of the plane by a missile.
“There is such a missile. It explodes and its shrapnel punctures [the plane]. And after that, the missile warhead strikes it,” the man said.
The MH17 passenger Boeing of Malaysian Airlines crashed on July 17 in the Donetsk region, as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 298 people on board died.
The incident is being investigated by an international group headed by the Dutch Safety Board (DSB), its final report is expected to be released in 2015. According to the preliminary information of the DSB, the Boeing was hit by “a large number of high-energy objects” penetrating the aircraft from outside, but the source of the objects was not found.
Kiev has accused independence supporters in Ukraine’s southeast of shooting the plane down, but provided no evidence confirming the claim. The independence supporters say they do not have weapons which could down a plane flying at such a high altitude.