The downing of Malaysian flight 17 puzzled me. That is because I am an old surface-to-air missile crewman for the first anti-aircraft missile deployed by the U.S. to protect its borders and those of NATO allies, the Nike Ajax.
What puzzles me is the information, particularly coming from Russia and its agents in Ukraine, seems so ridiculous that I wonder why the news media has not delved into the facts about missiles, how they operate, and what they can do.
Somewhere in my files is a small ring-binder that we crewmen carried in the breast pocket of our fatigues that contained the information given us during our training. It was classified as secret and we had a notation mandated on the first page that the information was for the use and dissemination of crewmen only. Much of that information is available on the Internet so I think I can disseminate.
The development of the Nike Ajax started in the late 1940s. By the early 1950s it was widely deployed in the U.S. and deployment continued throughout the world during the 1950s. My unit, Overseas Package 5, was sent to Germany in 1957 to convert an anti-aircraft gun battery to a missile battery deployed in remote parts of, then, West Germany.
Here are the characteristics of the Nike Ajax that have to be compared what is said about the downing of MH17.
- It was 18 feet long with a two-stage system propelled by a booster rocket and a sustaining engine.
- It traveled at 2.3 times the speed of sound, breaking the sound barrier as it left the launcher.
- It could reach 70,000 feet.
- It was guided by ground radar, a tracking radar and an analog computer which tracked the target and guided the missile into it.
- Its pattern of attack was to ascend to an altitude above the target, execute a high altitude turn back down to the target, and approach the target from above—it is very difficult for a target to evade a missile approaching it from above.
- It did not have to make a direct hit on the target; its 3 warheads, which weighed 1455 pounds (the missile itself weighed 1000 pounds) could destroy a target by proximity.
- The radar system contained a Friend or Foe indicator which could identify friendly, commercial, and non-combative aircraft and track only hostile aircraft as potential targets.
- The firing procedure included a series of steps to verify the status of the target and to prevent any targeting of innocent, non-combative aircraft.
Sixty-some years after the deployment of this missile system, the downing of MH17 is incomprehensible. The photographs of wreckage are pretty conclusive evidence that missile shrapnel shredded the aircraft. and its pattern of descent fits that of missile-hit aircraft. The accounts of the drunken Russian separatist militia, the mindless statements of its leaders, and Putin’s assurances that he is advising restraint to the Russian separatists, while Russian ordnance continues to pour into the regions they hold, indicate the downing of MH17 was no accident.
The real puzzler is why the press is so timid about putting the claims of Russia and its separatists in the context of facts as they are verified and established. When things are said, the first task of the press is—or, at least, it used to be—to check them for veracity, verify the facts in terms of the circumstances they allude to, and present the confirmations or the discrepancy to the public in clear terms.
We are living in a time when atrocities are being committed under the rules of jihad and now in Ukraine and Gaza with a political aggression that rivals Europe of the 1930s.
The dismaying aspect is that there seems to be few people in the world who understand the difference between the fact and propaganda that led to World War II and the Cold War that followed. If blogs claim to be superior to the legacy media in presenting uncomfortable facts. Maybe its time they dropped the snark and mindless bickering and start concentrating on facts.