On January, 8, 2020 an Ukrainian Boeing 737-800 crashed minutes after take-off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran, and hours after Iran launched ballistic missiles at a U.S military base in Iraq. The cause was surface-to-air missiles launched by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) air deface systems.
various media reports suggested that the (IRGC) used Russian made Tor-M1 or the SA-15 missile systems.
commander of Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Brigadier-General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said a newly set air defense site in Bidkaneh area west to Tehran was responsible for downing the Ukrainian plane.
Although brigadier-General Hajizadeh took full responsibility for the downing of the plane, he said a “human error” by the operator of the missile system caused the tragedy.
According to a press conference by Hajizadeh in Tehran, the operator was supposed to call in such circumstances to take permission to launch the missile, but a malfunction in his communication system might have prevented him from doing so. He said the operator had 10 seconds to make the decision and unfortunately, he made the wrong decision.
“This major catastrophe occurred because of a hasty decision by a person (the missile system operator)”, Hajizadeh said.
According to the Federation of American Scientists, which is a research and analyses organisation based in the United States, the SA-15 has the capability to automatically track and destroy 2 targets simultaneously in any weather and at any time of the day. It is capable of carrying eight ready missiles stored in two containers holding four missiles each with a range of 12 km (7.5 miles).
A video obtained by the the New York Times showed two missiles launched 30 minutes apart from an Iranian defense system site and hitting a flying object in the sky seconds later.
Hajizadeh said the operator of the surface to air missile system in Bidkaneh area identified a target 19 kilometers away from his position and mistaken it for a cruse missile. Bidkaneh area is about 15 kilometers from the crash site and 35 kilometers from Imam Khomeini International Airport.
when asked why flights were not suspended that day, Hajizadeh said it’s not the IRGC’s responsibility to take such a decision and that “the concerned officials” should have done that.
A video circulated on social media showed a plane on fire hours after the plane crashed.
The IRGC took days to officially take responsibility for the downing of the plane, and Iranian officials initially said it was impossible for the plane to keep on flying if it was hit by a missile. Hajizadeh said the Iranian armed forces and the IRGC didn’t seek to cover up the downing of the plane.
Although Hajizadeh said the IRGC take responsibility for the accident, he said the “evil and provocative practices of the U.S in the region” has also caused the disaster, and that at every moment on the night of the crash they were expecting a full-scale confrontation.
“I wish I have died and heard of this news”, Hajizadeh said.