An interim report on the official investigation into the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 disaster, published in September 2014 said the crash was a result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that struck the Boeing from the outside. However, it did not conclude what the objects were, where they came from, or who was responsible.
The Kiev government and most of Western news media have unequivocally blamed eastern Ukraine militias and Russia. The Russian Defense Ministry shared radar data pointing to other possibilities in July 2015 including an attack by a Ukrainian Sukhoi-25 fighter jet, which was said to have been tracking the passenger plane.
While an official international investigation into the crash has been dragging on for nine months, the debate into the cause of the tragedy has been once again reignited by recent comments from the chief designer of the SU-25.
from Russia Today
Kiev-born Soviet and Russian aircraft designer Vladimir Babak said on Monday that the SU-25 jet which was spotted tracking the MH17 Boeing at the moment it crashed down did not have the capability to shoot down a passenger plane. He said the fighter jet could have successfully attacked the Boeing at an altitude of 3,000-4,000 meters, but not at the planes altitude of 10,500 meters. He added that air-to-air missiles would have only damaged the Boeing not completely destroyed it while still in the air.
However, several former top officials and SU-25 pilots disagree with Babak.
Based on the analysis of the plane debris and the nature of the damage, there is a high probability the plane was stuck by an air-to-air missile and an aircraft gun, Claims that the passenger plane was downed by a surface-to-air Buk missile cannot be supported, as the nature of the damage from the missiles is different,” Lieutenant General Aleksandr Maslov, former deputy chief of the Russian Air Defence and Land Forces said.
Disputes about the operational capabilities of the SU-25 jet stem from the Russian definition of the aircrafts service ceiling which is not the same as its absolute ceiling, as defined by the US military, Veterans Today senior editor Gordon Duff commented.
The claimed service ceiling is based on the oxygen supply in the aircraft. Now, there is a claim that this plane [SU-25] will only work to 22,000 feet. At the end of World War II, a German ME-262 would fly at 40,000 feet, a P-51 Mustang propeller plane flew at 44,000 feet. The SU-25 was developed as an analogue of the A-10 Thunderbolt, an American attack plane. The planes have almost identical performance, except that the SU-25 is faster and more powerful. The A-10 Thunderbolt has a service ceiling of 45,000 feet. The US estimates the absolute ceiling, which is a different term, Duff explained.
Duff said one cannot be entirely sure the detected fighter jet was an SU-25 at all, as modern radar spoofing counter-measures such as those designed by BAE Systems and employed by NATO are able to mask any other aircraft, be it an SU-27 or F-15, as another plane.
Duff also said he has discussed the possibility of the MH17 flight having been hit by a ground-to-air missile with experts from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), the FBI, the Air Line Pilots Association, as well as air traffic and air operational officers and they all agreed that no proof of anti-aircraft missile use has been provided to the public.
It is highly unlikely that the launch of such a missile would have gone unnoticed in the area, Duff stressed, adding that the trail left by the rocket in the air would have been witnessed and filmed by thousands.
There is no reliable information supporting that it was a Buk missile fired by anyone, he added. The known estimate for the absolute ceiling of the SU-25 is 52,000 feet (15.8km), he added.