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  1. #1
    magnum44 magnum44 is offline

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    1 September 1983: Korean Air Lines Flight 007 Shot Down By Soviet Fighter Plane



    On 30 August 1983 Korean Airlines Flight 007, a four engine 747-230B took off from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport bound for Seoul, South Korea via Anchorage, Alaska, where it would stop over for refueling.
    On 31 August it left Anchorage International Airport at 04.00 Alaskan time with 269 people aboard which included 23 crew members and 243 passengers. Among the passengers was Georgia Congressman Lawrence P. McDonald, a Democrat, an ardent anti-Communist and an ultra conservative President of the radical right wing John Birch Society. Senators Jess Helms, Steve Symms and Carroll J. Hubbard Jnr. were also booked on the flight but decided because of delays to fly on the earlier sister flight KAL 015. The politicians were scheduled to attend the 30th anniversary of the United States–South Korea Mutual Defense Treaty. Former U.S. President Richard Nixon was allegedly booked to sit beside McDonald before also making alternative arrangements.



    Congressman Lawrence P. McDonald

    The airliner entered Romeo 20, the most northerly of five 50 mile wide airways which past less than 20 miles from Soviet airspace off the Kamchatka coast. Soon after reaching cruising altitude Captain Chun Byung-in activated the autopilot. In 1983 this had four basic control modes, HEADING, VOR/LOC, ILS and INS. The HEADING mode maintained a constant magnetic course, selected by the pilot. The VOR/LOC mode maintained the plane on a specific course, transmitted from a ground VOR or Localizer beacon, selected by the pilot. The ILS mode caused the plane to track both vertical and lateral course beacons, which led to a specific runway, selected by the pilot. The INS mode maintained the plane on lateral course lines between selected flight plan waypoints, programmed into the inertial navigation system computer.



    It was discovered later the crew either did not switch from HEADING to INS or else attempted to switch but the computer did not transition from INERTIAL NAVIGATION ARMED to INS mode because the aircraft had already deviated off track by more than the 7.5 nautical miles (13.9 km) tolerance permitted by the inertial navigation computer. In both scenarios, the autopilot remained in the HEADING mode, and the problem was not detected by the crew. As a result KAL 007 began to diverge from its proper flight path and missed its waypoints by many miles until it overflew the restricted airspace of the Soviet Kamchatka peninsula on the morning of 1 September 1983 and crossed the Sea of Okhotsk north of the Kuril Islands instead of passing hundreds of miles to the south.

    In August-September 1983 tensions were high between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. because the Reagan administration had deployed Pershing II nuclear missiles in Europe, there was U.S. naval exercise in the North Pacific and the deeply paranoid Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov and Soviet Defense Minister Dmitry Ustinov feared a U.S. first strike against the Soviet Union. U.S. aircraft taking part in the U.S. exercise had overflown Soviet installations on the Kamchatka peninsula and a U.S. reconnaissance plane was monitoring a planned Soviet missile test. As a result four Soviet fighters were scrambled to intercept the 747 airliner by Commander of the Soviet Far East District Air Defense Forces, General Valeri Kamensky and his subordinate General Anatoly Kornukov, commander of Sokol Air base. Kamensky wanted to destroy the plane only when it was identified as a military aircraft while the more gung-ho Kornukov believed there was no need to positively identify it as it had already crossed the Kamchatka peninsula and was re-entering Soviet airspace over Sakhalin Island.



    A Soviet Su-15 fighter plane.

    The pilot of the lead Soviet aircraft fired warning shots with his air to air cannons but because the plane was loaded with armor piercing rather than tracer rounds it is unlikely the pilots of the 747 would have seen them. At that moment the crew of the airliner requested permission to climb to a higher altitude to conserve fuel. This cause the 747 to slow and the pursuing fighter planes to fly by and overshoot their target, leading the pilots to believe the pilots of the unidentified plane had made an evasive maneuver. General Anatoly Kornukov determined that the plane would not escape to international airspace ordered the fighters to shoot it down. Major Genadi Osipovich the pilot of an Su-15 had told ground controllers that he saw blinking lights on the plane but did not tell them he saw rows of windows or that he knew it was a Boeing believing that a civilian plane could also be used for military purposes. Osipovich turned his plane into position and fired two Kaliningrad R-8 air to air missiles.

    Initially confusing reports claimed that the 747 was forced to land on Sakhalin Island and this was supported by Japanese Self-Defense Force who reported they had tracked the flight on its radar making a landing on the Soviet controlled island. Relatives of the passengers were first told this version of events by officials and that their relatives would shortly be released from Soviet custody. However it later emerged that the airplane had suffered severe shrapnel damage from the explosions of both proximity fused missiles which also decompressed the cabin and the burning plane flew on for 12 minutes descending slowly over Moneron Island. Subsequent investigations indicated that the crew and passengers would have the conscious between the missile impacts and the crash. A Japanese fisherman who witnessed the disaster heard "a loud sound followed by a bright flash of light on the horizon, then another dull sound and a less intense flash of light on the horizon."



    General Secretary Yuri Andropov



    Shoes from the victims of KAL 007

    The resulting air crash investigation was hampered by Cold War hostility between the Soviet Union and the United States, Japan and Korea naval forces in the area. It was not until 6 September that the Soviet admitted shooting down the aircraft although air sea rescue missions were sent over Moneron Island. The United States and Japan were search and salvage agents according to the South Korean owners except if the plane came down in Soviet waters. Rear Admiral William A. Cockell of Task Force 71 arrived in the area of Moneron Island and began what proved to be an unsuccessful search while the Soviet search area in its territorial waters was off limits. Vessels in both search teams had regular confrontations over the following weeks though the Soviets handed over 213 items of footwear which were later confirmed to belong to victims. Some human remains and personal items washing up on the shores of shore of Hokkaido, Japan. The wreckage of the plane was found by the Soviets in 571 feet of water off Moneron Island but only partial human remains and no intact bodies were ever found.

    Soviet-U.S. relations reached an all time low not seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The Reagan administration accused the Soviets of an "act of barbarism" while the Soviet initially denied shooting down the plane until UN ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick presented presented recordings and maps to the UN Security Council that proved the Soviets were responsible. The Soviets challenged the evidence and countered that KAL 007 at one point had crossed the flight path of the USAF RC-135 reconnaissance plane in the area. President Reagan revoked the right of Aeroflot to flight to the United States but also authorized the use of the Global Positioning System in civilian aircraft to prevent navigation errors in future which many read as an admission that an honest but tragic mistake had occurred. The Soviets continued to insist that KAL 007 was a spy plane which "flew deep into Soviet territory for several hundred kilometres, without responding to signals and disobeying the orders of interceptor fighter planes." However tensions eased when the investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) concluded that tragic conclusions of KAL 007 was entirely accidental.

    It would later emerge after the fall of the Soviet Union that the then Soviet leader Yuri Andropov was in contact with KGB Chief Viktor Chebrikov and knew where the plane had come down, decided to simulated a search elsewhere while harassing U.S., Japanese and Korean vessels, knew it was not a spy plane in the immediate aftermath of the crash and that the cockpit voice recorders were withheld because they showed no evidence that the pilots of the KAL 007 were in contact with the Soviet fighters or they saw or heard the warning the shots.

    Initially conspiracies swirled around the disaster including claims that the plane had not crashed and passengers and crew were held hostage similar to claims that Americans who went missing in action during the Vietnam War were still in captivity although they were listed as KIA. Later conspiracy theories centered on the death of Rep Lawrence P. McDonald who was on record as the most conservative and anti-communist congressman in the House of Representatives and claims that he was murdered by the Soviets or the flight was somehow misguided over Soviet territory to provoke its destruction. The claims that Richard Nixon narrowly avoided being a victim of disaster also spurred conspiracy theories.

    Last edited by magnum44; 5th September 2013 at 09:53 PM.
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  2. #2
    Fritzbox Fritzbox is offline
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    It wouldn't be the first time that a South Korean airliner would accidently stray over Soviet territory. It also happened to a Korean Airlines Boeing 707 in 1978.
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    ffc ffc is offline

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    Another example of the cock up theory rather than the overarching conspiracy.
    Confusion, fear and a lack of communication, when you have large military installations, heavily armed war machines, all on a hair trigger, waiting for conflict, these things will happen.
    It might not be a good time to take any kind of commercial flight over the Eastern Med.

    The US did something similar a few years later in the Persian Gulf, and the Israelis did it in Libya.

    Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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  4. #4
    magnum44 magnum44 is offline

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    Quote Originally Posted by ffc View Post
    Another example of the cock up theory rather than the overarching conspiracy.
    Confusion, fear and a lack of communication, when you have large military installations, heavily armed war machines, all on a hair trigger, waiting for conflict, these things will happen.
    It might not be a good time to take any kind of commercial flight over the Eastern Med.

    The US did something similar a few years later in the Persian Gulf, and the Israelis did it in Libya.

    Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    During a skirmish between the US and the Iranian Navy in the Persian Gulf in 1988 Iran Air Flight 655 was shot down by the USS Vincennes in a similar tragic case of crossed wires.

    Nine months after the tragedy a minivan belonging to the captain of the ship was destroyed in a pipebomb attack and his wife who was an elementary teacher narrowly escaped with her life.

    No link to the Iranian regime was ever proven and the mystery still remains.
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    Mackers Mackers is offline
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    There was some talk of the U.S. using such commercial flights as cover for spying missions. But I don't recall this going very far.
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  6. #6
    magnum44 magnum44 is offline

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mackers View Post
    There was some talk of the U.S. using such commercial flights as cover for spying missions. But I don't recall this going very far.
    Commercial aircraft of a state run airline of a sympathetic country like South Korea could have been mounted with surveillance cameras.

    It is not unheard of states putting innocents in danger for the purposes of intelligence gathering.

    In 1990 a British Airways flight landed in Kuwait just before the Iraqi Air Force bombed the runways.

    A group of men who passengers believed subsequently were undercover soldiers were on the plane left the airport before the passengers and crew were rounded up and taken hostage by the Iraqis.

    An alleged SAS man who was part of an alleged covert reconnaissance mission confirmed the plane was used to insert the SAS teams before the Iraqis invaded the country.



    Vital information is therefore more important to governments than the lives of unsuspecting innocent civilians.

    The KAL 007 incident could have been a stunt that went too far.
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    Colin M Colin M is offline
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    I remember reading about that former South African PM Botha, tennis star Mats Wilander, actress Kim Cattrall, Sex Pistol John Lydon all pulled out of boarding the Pan Am flight that went down in Lockerbie.

    So many 'prominent' people don't board the flight, and it is hard to accept that at face value.
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    Little_Korean Little_Korean is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Colin M View Post
    I remember reading about that former South African PM Botha, tennis star Mats Wilander, actress Kim Cattrall, Sex Pistol John Lydon all pulled out of boarding the Pan Am flight that went down in Lockerbie.

    So many 'prominent' people don't board the flight, and it is hard to accept that at face value.
    Someone ought to grill Kim Cattrall and blow the lid off the whole thing.

    Hell, if all the people who claimed they almost went to the LaBianca House in 1969 but didn't at the last second had gone after all, the place would have been like Jonestown. People get a perverse thrill out of 'almost' being on the plane, 'almost' turning up at the house, etc.
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    wombat wombat is online now
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mackers View Post
    There was some talk of the U.S. using such commercial flights as cover for spying missions. But I don't recall this going very far.
    I remember a guy who worked for the CIA saying at the time "If people knew how we get our information, they'd know how silly that theory is"
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  10. #10
    seabhcan seabhcan is offline
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    "In 1994, Robert W Allardyce and James Gollin wrote Desired Track: The Tragic Flight of KAL Flight 007, supporting the spy mission theory.[25] In 2007, they reiterated their position in a series of articles in Airways Magazine, arguing that the investigation by the International Civil Aviation Organization was a cover-up of a "carefully planned ferret mission".[26] Furthermore they suggested that the NSA had implemented Electronic Counter Measures to cover for the mission and that the flight recorder tapes had been planted for the Soviet recovery effort to find.[26]

    Planned spy mission theories point out the incongruency of a civilian passenger liner going accidentally astray and unnoticed precisely in one of the most militarily sensitive and well observed areas of the Cold War. They point out that there were powerful land and sea radar arrays that could well have tracked KAL 007 as it crossed through the NORAD prohibited-to-civilian flight zone and approached and entered Soviet territory. These were:

    COBRA JUDY aboard the missile range instrumentation ship USNS Observation Island, then off the coast of Kamchatka;

    Shemya Island’s COBRA DANE line of sight radar with the capability of tracking an aircraft at up to a 30,000 feet (9,100 m) altitude through an area covering 400 miles (640 km) (the curvature of the earth being its limiting factor);

    Shemya Island’s COBRA TALON, an over-the-horizon radar array with a range from 575 miles (925 km) to 2,070 miles (3,330 km). COBRA TALON operated by bouncing its emissions off the ionosphere (deflection) to the other side of the line of sight horizon, thus acquiring its targets.

    These radar arrays had capability for both surveillance and tracking. Whether this capability was actually used in the case of Flight 007 is currently unknown.[by whom?] In addition, the United States Air Force radar stations at Cape Newenham and Cape Romanzoff, two of twelve stations comprising the United States Alaskan Distant Early Warning/Aircraft Control and Warning (DEW/ACW) System, had the capability to track all aircraft heading toward the Russian Buffer Zone. Well within range of these radar sites,[citation needed] KAL 007 had veered directly toward Kamchatka. This theory postulates that the CIA put out disinformation about the aircraft landing at Sakhalin after their mission failed in order to buy time to construct a more credible story.[27]"

    I wouldn't be surprised if there was truth in this. The NSA could well have bet that the Soviets wouldn't shoot down a commercial plane.
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