Iran: Misaligned radar led to Ukrainian jet downing

People walk near the wreckage of a Ukrainian plane tha crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran on January 8, 2020, killing everyone on board. (AFP)
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Updated 12 July 2020

Iran: Misaligned radar led to Ukrainian jet downing

  • ‘A failure occurred due to a human error in following the procedure’ for aligning the radar

TEHRAN: Iran said that the misalignment of an air defense unit’s radar system was the key “human error” that led to the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January.
“A failure occurred due to a human error in following the procedure” for aligning the radar, causing a “107-degree error” in the system, the Iranian Civil Aviation Organization (CAO) said in a report late Saturday.
This error “initiated a hazard chain” that saw further mistakes committed in the minutes before the plane was shot down, said the CAO document, presented as a “factual report” and not as the final report on the accident investigation.
Flight 752, a Ukraine International Airlines jetliner, was struck by two missiles and crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran’s main airport on January 8, at a time of heightened US-Iranian tensions.
The Islamic republic admitted several days later that its forces accidentally shot down the Kiev-bound plane, killing all 176 people on board.
The majority of the passengers on the Boeing 737 were Iranians, with Canadians, Ukrainians, Afghans, Britons and Swedes also aboard.
The CAO said that, despite the erroneous information available to the radar system operator on the aircraft’s trajectory, he could have identified it as an airliner, but instead there was a “wrong identification.”
The report also noted that the first of the two missiles launched at the aircraft was fired by a defense unit operator who had acted “without receiving any response from the Coordination Center” on which he depended.
The second missile was fired 30 seconds later, “by observing the continuity of (the) trajectory of the detected target,” the report added.
The CAO said there was a defect in the transmission to the defense units coordination center of the data identified by the radar.
An Iranian general had said in January that many communications had been jammed that night.
Tehran’s air defenses had been on high alert at the time the jet was shot down in case the US retaliated against Iranian strikes hours earlier on American troops stationed in Iraq.
Those strikes were carried out in response to the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a US drone attack near Baghdad airport.
The aircraft tragedy sparked fierce reprobation in Iran, especially after it took three days for the armed forces to admit having shot down the plane “by accident” after a missile operator mistook it for an enemy projectile.
Ottowa and Kiev have demanded for months that Iran, which does not have the technical means to decode the black boxes, send them abroad so their contents can be analyzed.
In late June, France’s Accident Investigation Bureau (BEA) said Iran had “officially requested technical assistance” to retrieve the black box data.
Work on the Cockpit Voice Recorder and the Flight Data Recorder “should begin on July 20,” according to the BEA.
In early July, Canada announced that it had reached an agreement in principle with Iran to launch negotiations on compensation for the families of foreign victims of the accident.


Baby George, born amid Beirut blast, is ‘light in the darkness’

Updated 6 min 40 sec ago

Baby George, born amid Beirut blast, is ‘light in the darkness’

  • "George is very special. He is the light in the darkness, a birth in wreckage," Edmond said
  • Seventeen people died in St. George hospital right after the blast and dozens were injured

BEIRUT: Stepping into the delivery room where his wife Emmanuelle was about to give birth, Edmond Khnaisser meant to capture their son's first moments on camera.
Instead, he recorded the instant the biggest blast in Lebanon's history sent whole windows crashing onto his 28 year-old wife's hospital bed.
"I saw death with my own eyes...I started feeling 'is it over?' I was looking around and at the ceiling, just waiting for it to fall on us," Emmanuelle said, recollecting the direct aftermath of the massive blast that injured 6000 and killed more than 170 people in Beirut on Aug. 4.
Brushing off blood and shattered glass, medical staff instinctively carried Emmanuelle into the corridor, fearing another explosion could follow.
About to faint and shaken to the core, Emmanuelle said she knew she had to focus on giving birth.
"He has to come to life and I have to be very strong," she told herself.

Hospital staff works using torches while a baby named George is delivered, as the blast wave hit the hospital in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020 in this picture obtained from social media. (Reuters)


Right after the blast, Stephanie Yacoub, chief resident of obstetrics and gynecology at St. George Hospital University Medical Center, had run out the room to help an injured nurse.
But it was too late and the nurse died. Yacoub hurried back to Emmanuelle straight away to help her give birth, along with Professor Elie Anastasiades and a team of medics.
"There was no electricity and the sun was starting to set, so we knew we had to get this done as soon as possible. And with the use of people's phone lights, he came into the world," she told Reuters a week after the blast.
Seventeen people died in St. George hospital right after the blast and dozens were injured, including Edmond Khnaisser’s mother, who suffered six broken ribs and a punctured lung.
Running back and forth between his wife and his mother, Khnaisser said he had one objective in mind, to get his new son George to safety.
As they got into strangers’ cars and out of the blast’s perimeter, the extent of the destruction started to sink in.
They eventually made it to a hospital right outside of the capital where George was finally bathed and cleaned.
"George is very special. He is the light in the darkness, a birth in wreckage," Edmond said, showing pictures of his son on the Instagram page he created for the boy they now call "miracle" baby George.