It increasingly appears as if the Russian Metrojet airbus that crashed in the Sinai with the loss of 224 lives on October 31 broke up in flight. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the crash, saying that it destroyed the plane, presumably with a missile. It is not generally believed that ISIS possesses missiles with enough range to reach a plane flying at 33,000 feet. There aren’t any readily available man-launched missiles capable of reaching a plane flying that high, but a number of heavier systems, some light enough to be carried in a pickup truck, could do it.
One of the reasons that the US has been so hesitant to arm Syrian rebels is the fear that such weapons could get into the wrong hands, and if ISIS did shoot the plane down, then this has happened.
There are various interests involved. The Russian and Egyptian governments, for political reasons, would prefer that the plane was found to have broken up due to a structural failure. The airline and Airbus Industrie would prefer that it was shot down, which would greatly reduce the liability of both parties.
There are four entities that have the right under international agreements to examine the remains of the aircraft: the airline, Airbus Industrie, and the two countries involved. Egyptian authorities gave the black boxes to the Russians, as is appropriate under those agreements. If the Russians release unaltered transcripts, then it is likely that the full story will emerge. If they don’t, then it can be assumed that the plane was shot down and they don’t wish to admit this. The only party likely to provide an objective analysis is Airbus Industrie, which is operating under regulatory authorities and with oversight that will make it difficult for them to issue a false report.
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