TWA flight 800 and the missile theory

From:         kls@ohare.Chicago.COM (Karl Swartz)
Organization: Chicago Software Works, Menlo Park, California
Date:         21 Jul 96 13:29:34 
References:   1
Followups:    1 2 3 4 5 6
Next article
View raw article
  or MIME structure

A popular theory for the crash of TWA flight 800 seems to be that it
was shot down using a missile (a Stinger?) from a hand-held launcher,
either launched from short (allegedly out of range) or from a boat.
Reports of a streak in the sky and a radar blip merging with TW 800
are used to support this notion, though the military says the blip was
a momentary electronic phantom and that the 747 was both too high and
too far off shore to be within range of such a missile.  Let's assume
it was *possible*, that is, range and altitude aren't an issue.

I still have one problem with the missile theory.  Korean Airliners
007 was shot down by two missiles launched from a Soviet Sukhoi-15
fighter, 6-12 km (the reports I have are unclear) behind it.  I assume
that a fighter could carry missiles with significantly more punch than
any sort of hand-held missile.  Yet there was no fireball, no in-
flight breakup of KE 007.  One missile hit near the tail while the
second ripped off a substantial portion of the left wing.  Far from an
explosion and fireball, followed by breakup of the airframe, the plane
had electric power for another minute and 44 seconds, allowing the CVR
to record a hopeless struggle as the pilots tried to regain control of
the crippled 747.  The evidence indicates the airframe was intact for
the entire twelve minutes from missile hit to impact with the water.

Perhaps the Soviet air-to-air missiles are so poor that they can't
match the punch of a hand-held Stinger, or maybe you just need a
really lucky shot to trigger an instant fireball.  I'm skeptical,
though I'm willing to consider a solid argument that even a small
missile could indeed have produced the observed result.

Karl Swartz	|Home
Moderator of sci.aeronautics.airliners -- Unix/network work pays the bills