What Shot Down Malaysian Airlines Flight MA17? Why was it in a conflict zone? How did it happen?

It's an interesting and incredibly sad story: commercial airliner shot down over Ukraine. Not only that, but this is a Malaysian Airlines plane - who so famously had the most bizarre disappearance in the history of modern commercial aviation. It's the kind of story rag newspapers are printed for.

But there are some very basic and very valid questions:

Why was it flying over a war zone?

How did it get shot down?

The answer to the first question is surprisingly simple. European and Ukranian authorities were allowing all commercial traffic over 32,000ft to proceed as normal. Eurocontrol, the co-ordination centre for air-traffic control in Europe, said: “This route had been closed by the Ukrainian authorities from ground to flight level 320 [32,000 feet] but was open at the level at which the aircraft was flying.” The plane was flying at the lowest permitted altitude over the area, flight level 330 [33,000 feet], when it disappeared from the radar.

Since the crash, all the airspace of eastern Ukraine has been closed to civil aircraft until further notice. Flight plans submitted by pilots are automatically checked against closed areas of airspace. Eurocontrol said: “All flight plans that are filed using these routes are now being rejected.” Well no shit. 

Ok, so that's why. But to go all Japanese (the 5 whys) on their ass, why did they allow flights to continue as normal? 

Simple. No one believed the armed groups had weapons capable of reaching that altitude. Why do we believe that? Well that leads us to the next question. 

How did it get shot down?

So we usually just fly far above conflict zones assuming that 32,000+ is a safe zone. Right now (or at least, right before this happened) we were still flying above Northern Iraq and waving down at ISIS on the way. The reason is that all most "rebel" groups or terrorist organizations can get their hands on are old MANPADS, or Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems. 

Something like this:
The Tacoma! Terrorists Love It! So Will You!
And that's been a pretty fair assumption for the last 60 years, since Nazi Germany first invented the things (along with 75% of other dangerous modern military inventions it seems).

The issue is that what the "Ukrainian Separatists" were using was this:
  

A little different, no? 

Putin has been giving these things to the low-IQ high-testosterone morons (seriously - the recordings of these guys make Michael Bay movies seem like James Joyce) who are fighting for a "free and independent" Eastern Ukraine. 

That is a Buk Missile System, also known as a SA-11 in NATO speak. It is a very modern, very powerful system which has been continuously upgraded since it went into service in 1980. Now, if Putin is following his usual tactics (such a the T-64 tanks which somehow ended up in the Ukraine) he probably gave them the older generation model. Which makes very little difference for shooting down transport aircraft. Or passenger planes. 

Is the Ukraine at war with Russia? We were incredibly reluctant to give the Mujaheddin fighters in Afghanistan the Stinger MANPAD because it would be linked to the US. A fucking huge tracked SAM system with integrated radar, protected by main battle tanks all supplied by Russia? Guess what happens when you give that to a bunch of madmen.

There were nearly 300 people aboard that flight, including 60 children. 

Fuck you Putin. 

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