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Infantry Weapons

Civil Aviation Organization of Iran confirms Tor-M1s fired at airliner

21 January 2020
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An Iranian Tor-M1E is seen near Asaluyeh in October 2019. Satellite imagery indicates this system is operating independently rather than as part of a battery. Source: defapress.ir

The Civil Aviation Organization of Iran (CAOI) has confirmed that a Tor-M1 launched two missiles at Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 (PS752) before it crashed soon after taking off from Tehran's international airport on 8 January.

The Tor-M1 is a mobile short-range air defence system that can intercept guided weapons, including cruise missiles, as well as aircraft. Russia announced in December 2015 that Iran had ordered "up to 30" Tor-M1s.

The confirmation that one of these fired at the airliner came in a second preliminary report on the accident released by the CAOI on 21 January. It indicated that the missiles were launched from the north and said their impact on the airliner is under investigation.

In the immediate aftermath of the crash US officials were cited as saying that the airliner was hit by two missiles from a Tor-M1 system.

Brigadier General Amir Hajizadeh, the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force, admitted on 11 January that an air-defence system deployed at Bidkaneh had accidently shot down the airliner after misidentifying it as an incoming cruise missile.

Brig Gen Hajizadeh did not identify the system responsible and indicated it launched only one missile when the airliner was 12 km away: the maximum range of the Tor-M1.

PS752 was approximately 12 km south of a ballistic missile base near Bidkaneh when it stopped broadcasting its location.

Brig Gen Hajizadeh emphasised that Iranian air defences were on their highest level of alert as they were expecting the United States to retaliate for a ballistic missile attack on US military locations in Iraq earlier that morning.

He admitted that the Iranian military failed to ground civilian aircraft, even though an attack was expected. He also said that a communication problem resulted in an individual firing on the airliner without permission from his superior.

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