The Buk missile system, or SA 11 is a Soviet era advanced anti-air defense system. Nicknamed the ‘Gadfly’ by NATO, the Buk can hit targets at altitudes ranging from 100 to 72,000 feet.
Other variants include the SA-17 which can target aircraft as high as 82,000 feet. The system is being blamed in the possible shoot down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 out of Amsterdam en route to Kuala Lumpur.
It should be noted that both Ukraine and Russia are operators of this weapon system. Some reports have pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine capturing a Buk in late June.
The Buk missile system was initially developed by the former Soviet Union and now the Russian Federation. It is a self-propelled, medium range surface-to-air system. In addition to engaging aircraft, it is used in missile defense against cruise missiles. Continual upgrades have been made to the Buk, giving it the new DoD designation SA-17 or ‘Grizzly’.
The possible shoot down of MH 17 today shows either a grievous mistake by Ukrainian or Russian forces, or a new enhanced capability of the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Below is a picture of the possible variant used in the possible shoot down of the Malaysian flight.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17
As with all breaking news, the situation is fluid. Initial reports have 295 people aboard the aircraft which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Social media reports have as many as 23 Americans aboard the downed flight. That is completely unconfirmed.
Russian news agencies have been streaming pictures from the wreckage, including piles of passports. The images are extremely graphic and unconfirmed by a wire service or other news outlets.
Multiple reports, including the Ukrainian President, are suggesting that the plane has been shot down. Ukraine is adamant that it’s military forces were not involved.
Malaysian President Najib Razak expressed his shock on Twitter, and officials say he is en route to the operations center at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Other airlines have immediately started rerouting flight paths around the area to avoid the conflict zone. Germany’s biggest airline, Lufthansa, is avoiding eastern Ukrainian airspace.
“Lufthansa has decided to avoid the east Ukrainian air space by a wide margin with immediate effect,” a company spokesperson said.
FAA has released a statement that U.S. commercial air operations will cease in the area, and flight paths will be taken to go around the area.
This story will be updated as news comes in