Air Defense: December 4, 2003


: The DHL Airbus 300 freighter that was hit by an anti-aircraft missile on November 22nd suffered a hit to its wing, not an engine. The missile was a Russian built SAM 14. The 22.7 pound SAM-14 (or Strela 3) is the successor to the SAM 7 (Strela). More accurate and reliable than the SAM 7, it has a larger warhead (6.5 pounds, twice that of the SAM 7). The SAM 14 has a maximum range of 4.5 kilometers and a max altitude of 9,900 feet. For best results against a jet aircraft, the missile should be fired from a shorter range (two kilometers or less). The seeker of the SAM 14 was designed to go after the smaller engines on slower moving helicopters, which can be hit at four kilometers out. A video tape, of the missile being launched by Iraqis, was given to a French reporter. The warhead apparently exploded in the wing, setting fire to the fuel tanks inside the wing. The wing was clearly on fire when the aircraft made an emergency landing. There have been nine known missile attacks on aircraft in Iraq since last May. Aircraft landing at Baghdad airport minimize their vulnerability to missile attacks by making sharp turns at 15,000 feet and "cork-screwing" down before they make their landing. This evasive maneuver, however, is not possible on take off.

The Airbus A300-600 freighter has a wingspan of 148 feet, is 179 feet long and has a maximum take off weight of 175 tons. It has two engines. Unloaded weight is 81 tons. It can carry 48 tons of cargo and costs $70 million. When the A300 was hit, it was flying at about 8,000 feet. The wing fire caused the hydraulic system to fail, and the pilots had only the engines to control the movement of the aircraft. After sixteen minutes of maneuvering, the A300 made a landing. But without any steering, it ran off the runway and into the sand for about 600 meters. As a result the landing gear and both engines were damaged (from ingesting sand and part of a fence). An American D9 bulldozer pulled the A300 out of the sand and it's still parked at Baghdad airport. DHL resumed service to the airport a week after the incident.

Photos of the damage.


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