Report: Russian intelligence suspects US hand in SuperJet crash
Although aviation experts dismissed Russian intelligence's suspicions of a US hand in the May 9 plane crash in Indonesia, the many unanswered questions about the crash fuel conspiracy theories.
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The SuperJet is a medium-range 100-seat airliner whose $35 million price tag makes it the ideal replacement for hundreds of aging Soviet-era planes on Russia's myriad of far-flung regional routes. It is also greatly hoped that the new plane will pull Russia's depressed and scandal-ridden aviation industry into the 21st century by succeeding on international markets against competitors like the Canadian Bombardier Inc. and the Brazilian Embraer SA.Skip to next paragraph
Fred Weir has been the Monitor's Moscow correspondent, covering Russia and the former Soviet Union, since 1998.
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It's not the first time Russian officials have blamed a technological disaster on foreign meddling. Earlier this year the head of the space agency Roskosmos, Vladimir Popovkin, hinted that the failure of the ambitious Phobos-Grunt probe to the moons of Mars might have been caused by US electronic jamming of the vehicle in the Earth's "radar shadow" where Russian controllers couldn't see it happening.
(Such speculations are not always necessarily wrong. In 2004 a former secretary of the Air Force and special adviser to President Ronald revealed in his book "At the Abyss: An Insider's History of the Cold War" that in the 1980s the CIA used cyber warfare to sabotage the USSR's trans-Siberian pipeline for delivering Soviet gas to Western Europe, which caused a massive "3-kiloton" blast that destroyed a huge section of the line. Some critics have labeled that account "rubbish").
Mr. Gusarov says that Sukhoi has handled the information side of the SuperJet disaster very badly.
"From the very beginning they developed this plane as if it were a secret combat jet rather than a civil airliner," he says. "Now they're putting out contradictory statements, and making all sorts of premature declarations. For instance, how can they assert that there were no system failures based on an examination of the cockpit voice recorder alone?
"Of course, all possible theories are bad. Either we have a fault with our newest and most hopeful plane, or with one of Russia's finest aircrews. So, finding a scapegoat, putting out a story about some malicious external force bent on wrecking the SuperJet is just the thing they needed."
Oleg Pantaleyev, an expert with Aviaport.ru, an online aviation news service, points out that the US does not produce this particular class of aircraft, and several foreign firms, including Boeing, have been involved in the SuperJet's development and have big stakes in its success.
"This is a difficult investigation because part of the black box is missing, and the terrain makes it very hard to retrieve all the plane's fragments," he says. "It takes time to complete a probe of this complexity, and we can't expect any hard conclusions soon.
"It's this very lack of objective information plus low professional ethics that gives rise to all these rumors. They should be ignored."