Earlier today, we highlighted commentary from Russia’s Kogalymavia (the airline operating the ill-fated Airbus A321 which crashed in the Sinai Peninsula) where officials said human and technical factors weren’t responsible for the mid-air disaster which killed 224 people.
IS Sinai took credit for “destroying” the plane but it wasn’t immediately clear what the contention was in terms of just how the group went about sabotaging the flight. Subsequently, a series of analysts and commentators opined that there was simply no way the militants could have possessed the technology or the expertise to shoot down a plane flying at 31,000 feet, but as Kogalymavia put it, “a plane cannot simply disintegrate.”
In short, it seems as though something exploded, and while we can’t know for sure whether someone detonated on board or whether, as former NTSB investigator Alan Diehl told CNN, "final destruction" of the plane was the result of "aerodynamic forces or some other type of G-forces,” the circumstances are exceptionally suspicious especially given where the plane was flying and the current rather “tense” relationship between Moscow and Sunni extremists.
Now, the US has apparently ruled out the possibility that a projectile hit the plane but satellite imagery depicts a “heat flash” at the time of the crash which indicates “some kind of explosion on the aircraft itself, either a fuel tank or a bomb.” Here’s NBC:
While many have speculated that a missile may have struck a Russian commercial airliner that went down over Egypt's Sinai peninsula, U.S. officials are now saying satellite imagery doesn't back up that theory.
A senior defense official told NBC News late Monday that an American infrared satellite detected a heat flash at the same time and in the same vicinity over the Sinai where the Russian passenger plane crashed.
According to the official, U.S. intelligence analysts believe it could have been some kind of explosion on the aircraft itself, either a fuel tank or a bomb, but that there's no indication that a surface-to-air missile brought the plane down.
That same infrared satellite would have been able to track the heat trail of a missile from the ground.
"The speculation that this plane was brought down by a missile is off the table," the official said.
A second senior U.S. defense official also confirmed the surveillance satellite detected a "flash or explosion" in the air over the Sinai at the same time.
According to the official, "the plane disintegrated at a very high altitude," when, as the infrared satellite indicates, "there was an explosion of some kind."
That official also stressed "there is no evidence a missile of any kind brought down the plane."
We'd be remiss if we didn't note that the video released by ISIS which purports to depict the plane exploding in mid-air doesn't appear to show any kind of missile, but rather seems to suggest that someone on the ground knew the exact time when the aircraft was set to explode.
To be clear, there's always the possibility that this is a coincidence and that the explosion which brought down the plane wasn't terror related, but given the circumstances, you certainly can't blame anyone for suspecting the worst and as we noted earlier, the Sinai Peninsula is well within the range of Russia's warplanes flying from Latakia: