Iranian investigators have blamed the downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet over the capital Tehran earlier this year on the misalignment of an air defense unit’s radar system, a report said Saturday.
All 176 passengers were killed in the Jan. 8 incident, which sparked widespread public anger after Iranian authorities took days to admit that its forces had fired an antiaircraft missile at the Boeing 737-800 shortly after takeoff from Imam Khomeini International Airport.
Most of the dead were Iranian. Many were students, and for days after the shoot-down, their campuses became a stage for the grief and rage of fellow young Iranians.
The report from Iran’s civil aviation authority built on earlier findings that blamed the human error of a missile operator who had 10 seconds to decide whether the plane was a threat.
The downing occurred on a night where regional tensions were boiling: After an American drone strike killed Iranian commander Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, Iran had launched ballistic missiles targeting U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
In Iran, armed forces were bracing for a counterstrike.
The new report claims that the radar that the missile operator was monitoring had been misaligned, causing it to misinterpret the location of the passenger jet and indicate instead that there might be a second plane in the air.
“A failure occurred due to a human error in following the procedure” for aligning the radar, causing a “107-degree error” in the system, the report said. It then detailed, minute-by-minute, the chain of events that led to the plane’s targeting.
Saturday’s report did not apportion direct blame or liability, arguing that this would have hampered the investigators’ ability to secure the cooperation of those involved. It said that would be decided through the country’s judiciary.
(c) 2020, The Washington Post · Louisa Loveluck