The Russian plane crash in the Sinai Peninsula on October 31st added a new dimension to Russia’s military involvement in Syria and to international travel security. The airliner, an Airbus A321 operated by the Russian airline Metrojet, departed from the Sharm el-Sheik airport in Egypt early in the morning full of returning Russian tourists bound for St. Petersburg. Sixteen minutes later, the aircraft failed to make its scheduled contact with air traffic control. It disappeared from tracking radar screens six minutes afterwards. Egyptian military planes began searching for the aircraft shortly after radar contact was lost, and they eventually located a field of debris later confirmed to be the wreckage of the Russian airliner. Rescue crews arrived on scene to find that all 224 people on board Metrojet Flight 9268 were killed, the majority of the passengers still buckled in their seats. Shortly after the airliner crashed, an Islamic State (IS) affiliate based in Egypt claimed responsibility, stating that they brought down the plane “in response to Russian airstrikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land.” Authorities quickly recovered the flight data recorders from the wreckage and began investigating the cause of the crash.
International Security Consulting Firm Weighs in on the Russian Plane Crash
Though the investigation of the Russian Metrojet crash has not yet yielded an official cause, a body of evidence has emerged indicating that some sort of explosion occurred – possibly the result of a bomb in the cargo hold of the plane. Radar data revealed that the airliner was cruising at a level of 33,000 ft. and then suddenly lost a dramatic amount of speed and altitude during its last moments in the air. In addition to tracking data, officials from the UK and US recently announced the possession of intelligence information indicating that an explosive device caused the destruction of the airliner. Perhaps most telling of all, the Russian plane crash investigators reported a noise on the recovered cockpit voice recorder that sounds like an explosion. Despite the mounting evidence that a bomb downed the plane, Egypt and Russia continued to officially deny the likelihood of terrorist involvement pending the results of the investigation.
The Russian plane crash has the potential to significantly alter Russia’s posture in Syria and the security landscape in the eastern Mediterranean. The crash is already the worst aviation disaster in Russian history, and if the bomb theory proves to be true, it will be one of the most devastating acts of terrorism against the Russian state. Typically, Russia responds to acts of terrorism with overwhelming force, but this situation makes that option more difficult. Whether this tragedy will escalate Russia’s military involvement in Syria, or lead to a recalculation and reduction of its participation, remains to be seen.
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