SA-11 "Gadfly" (credit: Air Power Australia)
The SA-11 is the most likely suspect of the downing of the Malaysian 777 airliner as well as a AN-26. The "Gadfly" or "Buk" in Russia, is a medium range surface-to-air (SAM) mobile system. The Malaysian airliner was flying at an altitude of around 33,000 feet. The AN-26 was flying around 22,000 feet. Aircraft at those altitudes can only be brought down with radar guided, medium or long range systems.
The SA-11 has a built in radar which is normally used to guide the missile to the target, however the radar can also be used to acquire a target. Typically they work in batteries with one radar serving as the target acquisition radar feeding coordinates to the other launchers that have their radars in stand-by mode. The tactic gives aircraft less time to engage countermeasures. Civilian airliners stand no chance against this system.
It seems fairly certain that the airliner was shot down intentionally, why still remains elusive. It does make one wonder if Malaysian Flight 370 didn't meet a similar fate.
Taking a page from his old running mate, Senator McCain was quick to make an inflammatory statement. Promising, "There will be Hell to pay" McCain seemed to be talking to no one but himself. It has forced the State Department to remain silent on how many Americans were on board the Malaysian airliner. For a retired Naval officer, especially one that go shot down, he should recognize a trap more than others. Shooting down that airliner was calculated to elicit a response. Team Obama has miscalculated foreign leaders too many times already to rush in as McCain would like.
Whether it is world events or just how the media likes to focus on the latest crisis, the White House seems squarely in reaction mode these days. It was only two years ago that Mr. Obama and then Secretary of State Clinton formulated their China Containment Policy otherwise know as the "Pivot to Asia". The policy recognize the growth of China and that if left unchecked, it could pose a major power imbalance in the region.
Obama and Clinton based their policy on the three-legged stool; Seoul, Tokyo and Washington. Herein lies the biggest inherent weakness of the policy, Seoul and Tokyo don't like each other. There is also much animosity between Tokyo and Beijing. If the Washing becomes distracted, as it has in the last few months with Iraq, the three-legged stool topples over.
As I wrote about yesterday, China and Russia make a very powerful bloc (Brazil, India and South Africa see it and want in). Russia needs China's economic power but China needs Russia's military might (at least for now). Putin is ready-made to antagonize the United States and can keep a lightweight like Obama off-balance. That's all China needs to grow and expand throughout Asia without the US meddling in their affairs. Seoul and Tokyo pose no real threat as without the US, they will squabble amongst themselves.
Throw into all of this Netanyahu who is hellbent on wiping out Hamas and launching ground forces. This could drag Egypt and Syria into the conflict as well, especially now the White House has seemingly turned their attentions (again!) elsewhere to Ukraine. Iraq seems to be a lost cause that the US no longer is interested in. Syria and Iran could end up squabbling over who gets what to rule which parts of Iraq.
So to Senator McCain, I politely say shut-up! The United States is in a high stake poker match against Russia and our President looks like he can't even win at checkers.