Clearing the Air (MH17 Shootdown)

The shoot down of Malaysian Air flight 17 by Ukrainian rebels is a perfect example of what happens when you arm rebels with sophisticated systems, without training them in the use of those systems. It isn’t enough to know how to “pull a trigger”. ANY idiot can do that. But to take the firearms analogy even further, the 4 basic rules of firearms safety are:

  1. All guns are always loaded.
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
  4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

Now, let’s transfer this analogy to surface-to-air missile systems:

  1. All rocket systems are armed.
  2. Never point the rocket at something you’re not willing to blow up.
  3. Do not flip back the launch button cover until your rocket is targeted.
  4. Be sure of what you are shooting down, it’s mission, it’s cargo, and anything near or under it.

However, there is an element missing here…..and that is the ability to be sure of your target and what’s in its vicinity. The ability is implied in rule 4 of either set of rules. With firearms, it means not shooting if you don't have a clear sight picture. With a surface-to-air missile, it means not launching until you either have a very clear radar picture of your target, or a clear visual picture.

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