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.


Data leak reveals true scale of Iran’s COVID-19 crisis

Updated 34 min 17 sec ago

Data leak reveals true scale of Iran’s COVID-19 crisis

  • Iranian outbreak, already the worst in the Middle East, is far more serious than initially reported.
  • Tehran’s cover up of the true virus toll is consistent with their reaction to previous embarrassing incidents.

LONDON: A data leak from within Iran has revealed that the number of deaths caused by COVID-19 is nearly three times higher than the figures reported by the government.

The data, which was passed to the BBC Persian service, shows almost 42,000 people died with COVID-19 symptoms up to July 20, nearly triple the 14,405 reported by its health ministry.

The number of infections is also far higher than that admitted by the government: 451,024 as opposed to the 278,827 disclosed by Tehran.

Undercounting cases is common across the world due to limited testing capacity, but the BBC’s information reveals that Iranian authorities reported significantly lower daily numbers, despite having a record of all deaths — suggesting the figures were deliberately suppressed.

The data leak also shows that the first recorded case of the virus in Iran was on Jan. 22 — a month before the government acknowledged any cases.

Already the center of the Middle East’s virus outbreak, Tehran’s cover-up of early cases and its failure to swiftly act on the outbreak likely accelerated the spread of the virus across the region.

The BBC received the data from an anonymous source, who told them they shared the data to “shed light on the truth” and to end “political games” over the epidemic.

The data supplied includes details of daily admissions to hospitals across Iran, including names, age, gender, symptoms, date and length of periods spent in hospital, and underlying conditions patients might have.

The overall trend of cases and deaths in the leaked data is similar to official reports, but different in size.

Dr Nouroldin Pirmoazzen, a former Iranian MP who was an official at the health ministry and is now living in the US, told the BBC that the government was “anxious and fearful of the truth” when COVID-19 hit Iran.

He said: “The government was afraid that the poor and the unemployed would take to the streets.”

The Iranian health ministry maintains that the country’s reports to the World Health Organization on the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths are “transparent” and “far from any deviations.”

The cover-up of the true scale of their COVID-19 crisis is not unusual behaviour from the regime. A number of incidents have brought a similar response in 2020 alone.

In January, Iran shot down a Ukrainian jet near Tehran, killing all passengers on board. The regime hid its actions for three days, only acknowledging wrongdoing as public pressure mounted through protests.

Then Iranian nuclear and military facilities were the target of a series of sabotages, explosions, and cyberattacks, but Tehran has attempted to conceal what happened at virtually every step of the way.