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Sun Sep 1, 2019, 11:10 AM

36 Years Ago Today: KAL 007 is shot down by a Soviet interceptor over the Sea of Japan


HL7442, the aircraft that was shot down, at Honolulu in 1981. The aircraft in front of it crashed as Centurion Air Cargo Flight 164 25 years later

Korean Air Lines Flight 007 (also known as KAL007 and KE007) was a scheduled Korean Air Lines flight from New York City to Seoul via Anchorage, Alaska. On 1 September 1983, the South Korean airliner servicing the flight was shot down by a Soviet Su-15 interceptor. The Boeing 747 airliner was en route from Anchorage to Seoul, but deviated from its original planned route and flew through Soviet prohibited airspace about the time of a U.S. aerial reconnaissance mission. The Soviet Air Forces treated the unidentified aircraft as an intruding U.S. spy plane, and proceeded to destroy it with air-to-air missiles, after firing warning shots which were likely not seen by the KAL pilots. The Korean airliner eventually crashed in the sea near Moneron Island west of Sakhalin in the Sea of Japan. All 269 passengers and crew aboard were killed, including Larry McDonald, a United States Representative from Georgia. The Soviets found the wreckage under the sea on September 15, and found the flight recorders in October, but this information was kept secret until 1993.

The Soviet Union initially denied knowledge of the incident, but later admitted shooting down the aircraft, claiming that it was on a MASINT spy mission. The Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union said it was a deliberate provocation by the United States to probe the Soviet Union's military preparedness, or even to provoke a war. The White House accused the Soviet Union of obstructing search and rescue operations. The Soviet Armed Forces suppressed evidence sought by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) investigation, such as the flight recorders, which were released ten years later, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The incident was one of the most tense moments of the Cold War and resulted in an escalation of anti-Soviet sentiment, particularly in the United States.

As a result of the incident, the United States altered tracking procedures for aircraft departing from Alaska. The interface of the autopilot used on airliners was redesigned to make it more ergonomic. In addition, the incident was one of the most important events that prompted the Reagan administration to allow worldwide access to the United States Global Positioning System (GPS).

Details of the flight
The aircraft flying as Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was a Boeing 747-230B registered HL7442. The aircraft departed Gate 15 of John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City on August 31, 1983, at 00:25 EDT (04:25 UTC), bound for Gimpo International Airport in Gangseo District, Seoul, 35 minutes behind its scheduled departure time of 23:50 EDT, August 30 (03:50 UTC, August 31). The flight was carrying 246 passengers and 23 crew members. After refueling at Anchorage International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska, the aircraft, piloted on this leg of the journey by captain Chun Byung-in, first officer Son Dong-hui and Flight Engineer Kim Eui-dong, departed for Seoul at 04:00 AHDT (13:00 UTC) on August 31, 1983.

The aircrew had an unusually high ratio of crew to passengers, as six deadheading crew were on board. Twelve passengers occupied the upper deck first class, while in business class almost all of the 24 seats were taken; in economy class, approximately 80 seats were empty. There were 22 children under the age of 12 years aboard. 130 passengers planned to connect to other destinations such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Taipei.

Congressman Larry McDonald

United States Congressman Larry McDonald from Georgia, who at the time was also the second president of the conservative John Birch Society, was on the flight. Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, Senator Steve Symms of Idaho, and Representative Carroll Hubbard of Kentucky (who cancelled his reservations for the trip at the last moment) were aboard sister flight KAL 015, which flew 15 minutes behind KAL 007; they were headed, along with McDonald on KAL 007, to Seoul, South Korea, in order to attend the ceremonies for the thirtieth anniversary of the U.S.–South Korea Mutual Defense Treaty.[18] The Soviets contended former U.S. president Richard Nixon was to have been seated next to Larry McDonald on KAL 007 but that the CIA warned him not to go, according to the New York Post and Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS); this was denied by Nixon.

Flight deviation from assigned route
After taking off from Anchorage, the flight was instructed by air traffic control (ATC) to turn to a heading of 220 degrees. Approximately 90 seconds later, ATC directed the flight to "proceed direct Bethel when able". Upon arriving over Bethel, Alaska, KAL 007 entered the northernmost of five 50-mile (80 km) wide airways, known as the NOPAC (North Pacific) routes, that bridge the Alaskan and Japanese coasts. KAL 007's particular airway, R-20 (Romeo Two Zero), passes just 17.5 miles (28.2 km) from what was then Soviet airspace off the coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula.

The autopilot system used at the time 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 VOR (VHF omnidirectional range, a type of short-range radio signal transmitted from ground beacons) or Localizer (LOC) beacon selected by the pilot. The ILS (instrument landing system) mode caused the plane to track both vertical and lateral course beacons, which led to a specific runway selected by the pilot. The INS (inertial navigation system) mode maintained the plane on lateral course lines between selected flight plan waypoints programmed into the INS computer.

When the INS navigation systems were properly programmed with the filed flight plan waypoints, the pilot could turn the autopilot mode selector switch to the INS position and the plane would then automatically track the programmed INS course line, provided the plane was headed in the proper direction and within 7.5 miles (12.1 km) of that course line. If, however, the plane was more than 7.5 miles (12.1 km) from the flight-planned course line when the pilot turned the autopilot mode selector from HEADING to INS, the plane would continue to track the heading selected in HEADING mode as long as the actual position of the plane was more than 7.5 miles (12.1 km) from the programmed INS course line. The autopilot computer software commanded the INS mode to remain in the "armed" condition until the plane had moved to a position less than 7.5 miles (12.1 km) from the desired course line. Once that happened, the INS mode would change from "armed" to "capture" and the plane would track the flight-planned course from then on.

The HEADING mode of the autopilot would normally be engaged sometime after takeoff to comply with vectors from ATC, and then after receiving appropriate ATC clearance, to guide the plane to intercept the desired INS course line.

The Anchorage VOR beacon was not operational because of maintenance. The crew received a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) of this fact, which was not seen as a problem, as the captain could still check his position at the next VORTAC beacon at Bethel, 346 miles (557 km) away. The aircraft was required to maintain the assigned heading of 220 degrees, until it could receive the signals from Bethel, then it could fly direct to Bethel, as instructed by ATC, by centering the VOR "to" course deviation indicator (CDI) and then engaging the auto pilot in the VOR/LOC mode. Then, when over the Bethel beacon, the flight could start using INS mode to follow the waypoints that make up route Romeo-20 around the coast of the U.S.S.R. to Seoul. The INS mode was necessary for this route, since after Bethel the plane would be mostly out of range from VOR stations.

A simplified CIA map showing divergence of planned and actual flight paths

At about 10 minutes after take-off, KAL 007, flying on a heading of 245 degrees, began to deviate to the right (north) of its assigned route to Bethel, and continued to fly on this constant heading for the next five and a half hours.

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) simulation and analysis of the flight data recorder determined that this deviation was probably caused by the aircraft's autopilot system operating in HEADING mode, after the point that it should have been switched to the INS mode. According to the ICAO, the autopilot was not operating in the INS mode either because the crew did not switch the autopilot to the INS mode (shortly after Cairn Mountain), or they did select the INS mode, 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 miles (12.1 km) tolerance permitted by the inertial navigation computer. Whatever the reason, the autopilot remained in the HEADING mode, and the problem was not detected by the crew.

At 28 minutes after takeoff, civilian radar at Kenai Peninsula on the eastern shore of Cook Inlet and with radar coverage 175 miles (282 km) west of Anchorage, tracked KAL 007 5.6 miles (9.0 km) north of where it should have been.

When KAL 007 did not reach Bethel at 50 minutes after takeoff, a military radar at King Salmon, Alaska, tracked KAL 007 at 12.6 nautical miles (23.3 km) north of where it should have been. There is no evidence to indicate that civil air traffic controllers or military radar personnel at Elmendorf Air Force Base (who were in a position to receive the King Salmon radar output) were aware of KAL 007's deviation in real-time, and therefore able to warn the aircraft. It had exceeded its expected maximum deviation sixfold, 2 nautical miles (3.7 km) of error being the maximum expected drift from course if the inertial navigation system was activated.

KAL 007's divergence prevented the aircraft from transmitting its position via shorter range very high frequency radio (VHF). It therefore requested KAL 015, also en route to Seoul, to relay reports to air traffic control on its behalf. KAL 007 requested KAL 015 to relay its position three times. At 14:43 UTC, KAL 007 directly transmitted a change of estimated time of arrival for its next waypoint, NEEVA, to the international flight service station at Anchorage, but it did so over the longer range high frequency radio (HF) rather than VHF. HF transmissions are able to carry a longer distance than VHF, but are vulnerable to electromagnetic interference and static; VHF is clearer with less interference, and preferred by flight crews. The inability to establish direct radio communications to be able to transmit their position directly did not alert the pilots of KAL 007 of their ever-increasing divergence[26] and was not considered unusual by air traffic controllers. Halfway between Bethel and waypoint NABIE, KAL 007 passed through the southern portion of the North American Aerospace Defense Command buffer zone. This zone is north of Romeo 20 and off-limits to civilian aircraft.

Some time after leaving American territorial waters, KAL Flight 007 crossed the International Date Line, where the local date shifted from August 31, 1983, to September 1, 1983.

KAL 007 continued its journey, ever increasing its deviation—60 nautical miles (110 km) off course at waypoint NABIE, 100 nautical miles (190 km) off course at waypoint NUKKS, and 160 nautical miles (300 km) off course at waypoint NEEVA—until it reached the Kamchatka Peninsula.


A Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 interceptor

In 1983, Cold War tensions between the United States and Soviet Union had escalated to a level not seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis because of several factors. These included the United States' Strategic Defense Initiative, its planned deployment of the Pershing II weapon system in Europe in March and April, and FleetEx '83-1, the largest naval exercise held to date in the North Pacific.[30] The military hierarchy of the Soviet Union (particularly the old guard led by Soviet General Secretary Yuri Andropov and Minister of Defence Dmitry Ustinov) viewed these actions as bellicose and destabilizing; they were deeply suspicious of U.S. President Ronald Reagan's intentions and openly fearful he was planning a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. These fears culminated in RYAN, the code name for a secret intelligence-gathering program initiated by Andropov to detect a potential nuclear sneak attack which he believed Reagan was plotting.

Aircraft from USS Midway and USS Enterprise repeatedly overflew Soviet military installations in the Kuril Islands during FleetEx '83, resulting in the dismissal or reprimanding of Soviet military officials who had been unable to shoot them down. On the Soviet side, RYAN was expanded. Lastly, there was a heightened alert around the Kamchatka Peninsula at the time KAL 007 was in the vicinity, because of a Soviet missile test at the Kura Missile Test Range that was scheduled for the same day. A United States Air Force Boeing RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft flying in the area was monitoring the missile test off the peninsula.

At 15:51 UTC, according to Soviet sources, KAL 007 entered the restricted airspace of the Kamchatka Peninsula. The buffer zone extended 200 kilometres (120 mi) from Kamchatka's coast and is known as a flight information region (FIR). The 100-kilometre (62 mi) radius of the buffer zone nearest to Soviet territory had the additional designation of prohibited airspace. When KAL 007 was about 130 kilometres (81 mi) from the Kamchatka coast, four MiG-23 fighters were scrambled to intercept the Boeing 747.

Significant command and control problems were experienced trying to vector the fast military jets onto the Boeing before they ran out of fuel. In addition, pursuit was made more difficult, according to Soviet Air Force Captain Aleksandr Zuyev, who defected to the West in 1989, because ten days before Arctic gales had knocked out the key warning radar on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Furthermore he stated that local officials responsible for repairing the radar lied to Moscow, falsely reporting that they had successfully fixed the radar. Had this radar been operational, it would have enabled an intercept of the stray airliner roughly two hours earlier with plenty of time for proper identification as a civilian aircraft. But instead, the unidentified jetliner crossed over the Kamchatka Peninsula back into international airspace over the Sea of Okhotsk without being intercepted. In his explanation to 60 Minutes, Zuyev stated:

Some people lied to Moscow, trying to save their ass.

The Commander of the Soviet Far East District Air Defense Forces, General Valery Kamensky, was adamant that KAL 007 was to be destroyed even over neutral waters but only after positive identification showed it not to be a passenger plane. His subordinate, General Anatoly Kornukov, commander of Sokol Air Base and later to become commander of the Russian Air Force, insisted that there was no need to make positive identification as "the intruder" had already flown over the Kamchatka Peninsula.

General Kornukov (to Military District Headquarters-Gen. Kamensky): (5:47) "...simply destroy [it] even if it is over neutral waters? Are the orders to destroy it over neutral waters? Oh, well."
Kamensky: "We must find out, maybe it is some civilian craft or God knows who."
Kornukov: "What civilian? [It] has flown over Kamchatka! It [came] from the ocean without identification. I am giving the order to attack if it crosses the State border."

Units of the Soviet Air Defence Forces that had been tracking the South Korean aircraft for more than an hour while it entered and left Soviet airspace now classified the aircraft as a military target when it reentered their airspace over Sakhalin. After the protracted ground-controlled interception, the three Su-15 fighters (from nearby Dolinsk-Sokol airbase) and the MiG-23 (from Smirnykh Air Base) managed to make visual contact with the Boeing. The pilot of the lead Su-15 fighter fired warning shots, but recalled later in 1991, "I fired four bursts, more than 200 rounds. For all the good it did. After all, I was loaded with armor piercing shells, not incendiary shells. It's doubtful whether anyone could see them."

At this point, KAL 007 contacted Tokyo Area Control Center, requesting clearance to ascend to a higher flight level for reasons of fuel economy; the request was granted, so the Boeing started to climb, gradually slowing as it exchanged speed for altitude. The decrease in speed caused the pursuing fighter to overshoot the Boeing and was interpreted by the Soviet pilot as an evasive maneuver. The order to shoot KAL 007 down was given as it was about to leave Soviet airspace for the second time. At around 18:26 UTC, under pressure from General Kornukov, and ground controllers not to let the aircraft escape into international airspace, the lead fighter was able to move back into a position where it could fire two K-8 (NATO reporting name: AA-3 "Anab" ) air-to-air missiles at the plane.

Soviet pilot's recollection of shootdown
In a 1991 interview with Izvestia, Major Genadi Osipovich, pilot of the Su-15 interceptor that shot the 747 down, spoke about his recollections of the events leading up to the shootdown. Contrary to official Soviet statements at the time, he recalled telling ground controllers that there were "blinking lights". He continued, saying that "I saw two rows of windows and knew that this was a Boeing. I knew this was a civilian plane. But for me this meant nothing. It is easy to turn a civilian type of plane into one for military use." He furthermore did not provide a detailed description of the aircraft to the ground controllers: "I did not tell the ground that it was a Boeing-type plane; they did not ask me."

Commenting on the moment that KAL 007 slowed as it ascended from flight level 330 to flight level 350, and then on his maneuvering for missile launch, Osipovich said:

They [KAL 007] quickly lowered their speed. They were flying at 400 km/h (249 mph). My speed was more than 400. I was simply unable to fly slower. In my opinion, the intruder's intentions were plain. If I did not want to go into a stall, I would be forced to overshoot them. That's exactly what happened. We had already flown over the island [Sakhalin]. It is narrow at that point, the target was about to get away... Then the ground [controller] gave the command: "Destroy the target...!" That was easy to say. But how? With shells? I had already expended 243 rounds. Ram it? I had always thought of that as poor taste. Ramming is the last resort. Just in case, I had already completed my turn and was coming down on top of him. Then, I had an idea. I dropped below him about two thousand metres (6,600 ft)... afterburners. Switched on the missiles and brought the nose up sharply. Success! I have a lock on.

We shot down the plane legally... Later we began to lie about small details: the plane was supposedly flying without running lights or strobe light, that tracer bullets were fired, or that I had radio contact with them on the emergency frequency of 121.5 megahertz.

Post-attack flight
At the time of the attack, the plane had been cruising at an altitude of about 35,000 feet (11,000 m). Tapes recovered from the airliner's cockpit voice recorder indicate that the crew were unaware that they were off course and violating Soviet airspace. Immediately after missile detonation, the airliner began a 113-second arc upward because of a damaged crossover cable between the left inboard and right outboard elevators.

At 18:26:46 UTC (03:26 Japan Time; 06:26 Sakhalin time), at the apex of the arc at altitude 38,250 feet (11,660 m), the autopilot disengaged (this was either done by the pilots, or it disengaged automatically). Now being controlled manually, the plane began to descend to 35,000 feet (11,000 m). From 18:27:01 until 18:27:09, the flight crew reported to Tokyo Area Control Center informing that KAL 007 to "descend to 10,000" [feet; 3,000 m]. At 18:27:20, ICAO graphing of Digital Flight Data Recorder tapes showed that after a descent phase and a 10 second "nose-up", KAL 007 was leveled out at pre-missile detonation altitude of 35,000 ft (11,000 m), forward acceleration was back to pre-missile detonation rate of zero acceleration, and air speed had returned to pre-detonation velocity.

Yaw (oscillations), begun at the time of missile detonation, continued decreasingly until the end of the 1 minute 44 second section of the tape. The Boeing did not break up, explode or plummet immediately after the attack; it continued its gradual descent for four minutes, then leveled off at 16,424 feet (5,006 m) (18:30–18:31 UTC), rather than continuing to descend to 10,000 (3,000 m) as previously reported to Tokyo Area Control Center. It continued at this altitude for almost five more minutes (18:35 UTC).

The last cockpit voice recorder entry occurred at 18:27:46 while in this phase of the descent. At 18:28 UTC, the aircraft was reported turning to the north. ICAO analysis concluded that the flight crew "retained limited control" of the aircraft. However, this only lasted for five minutes. The crew then lost all control. The aircraft began to descend rapidly in spirals over Moneron Island for 2.6 miles (4.2 km). The aircraft then broke apart in mid-air and crashed into the ocean, just off the West coast of the Sakhalin Island. All 269 people on board were killed instantly from blunt trauma.[note 4] The aircraft was last seen visually by Osipovich, "somehow descending slowly" over Moneron Island. The aircraft disappeared off long range military radar at Wakkanai, Japan at a height of 1,000 feet (300 m).

KAL 007 was probably attacked in international airspace, with a 1993 Russian report listing the location of the missile firing outside its territory at 46°46′27″N 141°32′48″E, although the intercepting pilot stated otherwise in a subsequent interview. Initial reports that the airliner had been forced to land on Sakhalin were soon proven false. One of these reports conveyed via phone by Orville Brockman, the Washington office spokesman of the Federal Aviation Administration, to the press secretary of Larry McDonald, was that the FAA in Tokyo had been informed by the Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau that "Japanese self-defense force radar confirms that the Hokkaido radar followed Air Korea to a landing in Soviet territory on the island of Sakhalinska and it is confirmed by the manifest that Congressman McDonald is on board".

A Japanese fisherman aboard 58th Chidori Maru later reported to the Japanese Maritime Safety Agency (this report was cited by ICAO analysis) that he had heard a plane at low altitude, but had not seen it. Then he 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" and smelled aviation fuel.


The US lost a lot of "moral authority" about the shootdown after its own fuck-up in shooting down Iran Air 665 5 years later.

<-not for the John Bircher congressman, but for all others on the flight.

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Reply 36 Years Ago Today: KAL 007 is shot down by a Soviet interceptor over the Sea of Japan (Original post)
Dennis Donovan Sep 2019 OP
Mc Mike Sep 2019 #1
Dennis Donovan Sep 2019 #2
Mc Mike Sep 2019 #5
Historic NY Sep 2019 #3
bluecollar2 Sep 2019 #4

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sun Sep 1, 2019, 11:26 AM

1. Bircher democrat.

Every now and then our party winds up getting some insane fascist in an elected position. Always, they hang around with the repugs, espouse repug policies and talking points. Jim Trafficant, Charlie Wilson, Mark Fairchild and Janice Hart, Fred Phelps (not elected), Jim Jones (appointed Housing Authority head of S.F.), David Duke tried to run as a Dem, etc.

They're exploiting weaknesses in party structures and muddying the waters, politically. Always espouse far right repug viewpoints.

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Response to Mc Mike (Reply #1)

Sun Sep 1, 2019, 11:43 AM

2. ...and all the "Dixiecrats".

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #2)

Sun Sep 1, 2019, 01:16 PM

5. Thurmond, Shelby, turncoat whities 'supreme'.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sun Sep 1, 2019, 11:50 AM

3. A resident of my town was on the flight with 2 of his co-workers.

they worked for a Dept. Store .

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sun Sep 1, 2019, 01:01 PM

4. I was on deployment to Misawa, Japan

With Patrol Squadron 40 (VP40)

Had just returned from a nice quiet detachment to Diego Garcia....palm trees, warm weather, white sandy beach...

Next thing you know all hell had broken loose.

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