BUK: Russia's feared anti-aircraft missile system

13th October 2015, Comments 0 comments

The BUK missile system blamed for shooting down flight MH17 over east Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board, is an anti-aircraft weapon whose origins date back to the Soviet era.

The system is designed to be a mobile surface-to-air system able to engage multiple targets at a variety of ranges.

BUK -- which means "Beech" in Russian -- first fully entered service with the Red Army in 1980, and has been exported to many countries, including North Korea and Syria. NATO's official designation for it is the SA-11 Gadfly.

The system fires a single-stage 700-kilogramme (1,500-pound) missile whose warhead explodes in close proximity to the target, shredding it with high-velocity shrapnel.

Up to six BUK missiles can be fired simultaneously from a launch vehicle -- usually either a military truck or a tank -- on targets flying on different bearings, according to the London-based Jane's defence and intelligence group.

The missiles lock onto targets using a separate radar system that is usually operated from an accompanying mobile unit.

The system can operate in any weather and reportedly hit some targets at an altitude of 25 kilometres (15 miles) or more.

The findings from the Dutch-led investigation released in the Netherlands Tuesday said the Malaysia Airlines Boeing-777 was "struck by a 9N314M warhead as carried on a 9M38-series missile and launched by a BUK missile system".

The aircraft was flying at a cruising altitude of 33,000 feet (about 10 kilometres).

The 15-month international probe narrowed the location from which the missile was fired to an area of "about 320 square kilometres" (123 square miles) in part of eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels were battling Ukrainian forces. It did not say who fired the missile.

Ukraine and its Western allies have accused the insurgents of shooting down the plane with a BUK system likely supplied by Russia.

Russia and the separatists deny this, countering that the rebels did not possess such weapons and pointing the finger of blame at Kiev's forces.

The Russian state-controlled manufacturer of the BUK system Almaz-Antey on Tuesday said that if the plane was downed by a missile then it had to be the 9M38 model that was produced until 1986 and went out of service in Russia in 2011, but is still likely in Ukraine's stockpiles.

The company had earlier claimed that the missile could only have been the more modern 9M38M1 version that was discontinued in 1999.

© 2015 AFP

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