“Pulling the trigger is easy”

Russian missile, Malaysia Airlines

Russian Buk missiles (photo: wikipedia)

Discovery of “shrapnel-like holes” on pieces of the fuselage of downed Malaysia Airlines flight 17 adds to evidence suggesting it was shot down using Russian Buk missile technology (which NATO calls the SA-11). A Wired article by Alex Davies reveals just how easy that would be. Says Davies, “The weapon in question is the SA-11, a radar-guided surface to air missile (SAM) system.” The system is mobile, as it was designed to protect troops near the front line from fighter jet attacks. It can hit targets up to twenty miles away and higher than 70,000 feet. It requires a crew of just four.

Once the system is set up, that crew doesn’t need much training to use it. It’s knowing what to fire at that takes the skill, because “the SA-11’s radar system shows the same ‘blip’ for all different targets,” Davies writes. He quotes Paul Huter a Lockheed-Martin aerospace engineer: “Once the radar picks up a target, it is a matter of telling the system that it should engage the target and issuing a fire command.” Another interviewee compared it to firing a gun. “Pulling the trigger is easy. Judgment is hard.”