Tom Kane's Blog

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image Soviet Missiles

I wrote a piece for my blog a month or so ago about the odd things you can see in the Cyprus sky. You can read Starry, Starry Night by clicking here.

Things That Go Bang In The Night

Of course some of the things we get in the night sky are perfectly easy to explain, like the object that landed at 1am our time yesterday. I say landed, maybe I should say hit the ground after blowing up in the air and the debris taking a lot of a hillside with it. What am I talking about? I’m talking about the Russian made anti-aircraft missile that hit the ground in Northern Cyprus, not 12 miles from our capital, Nicosia, in the early hours of Monday, July 1st 2019.

What Goes Up, Must Come Down

The missile is a surface-to-air missile, used to shoot down attacking aircraft. It’s designed for long range flight, but not to unprotected little islands in the eastern Mediterranean. It was designed to shoot down attacking aircraft, but this particular missile presumably lost its way and managed to set fire to a hillside in the illegally held Turkish north of the island.

The S-200 missile, produced during the Soviet era in Russia, is said to have been part of the Russian installed Syrian air-defense. It was presumably launched from Syria during an air strike in Syria by Israel. The missile has a range of 300km which is about 20-30 minutes flying time from us on a good night if you’re rocket propelled.

So, the Syrian air-defenses are alerted to an air strike by Israel, be it automated or launched by a person, one would assume the missile is capable of locking onto a target before it’s fired… or maybe not. In military jargon these missiles use radio illumination mid-course correction to fly towards the target with a terminal semi-active radar homing phase. The maximum target speed is around Mach 6. It’s a long-range missile system that was developed in the 1950s by the Soviet Union to replace another, failed system, that didn’t live up to scratch. I would respectively suggest that this system is also a failure since it’s intended target was not an island in a sea, but an aircraft in the air. You’re not telling me that this missile was fired at an Israeli Air Force fighter bomber, but mistakenly hit an island instead.

I must admit I’m amazed something like this, or worse, hasn’t happened in Cyprus before. We are currently seemingly surrounded by warships. Never mind the current civil war in neighbouring Syria, Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is causing major ructions between supposed allies.

Turkey has illegally occupied the north of Cyprus since invading in 1974. Now that gas and oil have been discovered in Cypriot waters, which Cyprus wants to make use of commercially, Turkey has declared that it too wants a piece of the action. Strict warnings made by Washington, Brussels, Paris, London and Rome are being ignored and Turkey is taking a provocative stance in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey, America, Britain and Italy are allies in NATO, but when it comes to natural resources, the gloves are off.

An incident in February between the captain of an Italian drilling ship and the captain of a Turkish warship that blocked its route to plot 3 in the Cypriot waters has upped the stakes in the area and more warships have arrived in the area since then.

After the shooting down of a civilian flight over Ukraine in recent times, the possibility of an accident occurring in Cyprus has been on the cards for some time with the war in Syria and now the stand-off between Turkish warships. In May this year Turkey sent a drill-ship to waters inside the Cyprus EEZ, about 60km west of Paphos. In response arrest warrants have been issued by the Republic of Cyprus against the crew of the Turkish drill-ship.

This is indicative of how things will go worldwide as natural resources run low and countries begin drilling in areas that are internationally contested.

How long will it be before another accident actually claims innocent lives.

Copyright © Tom Kane 2019

Living in Cyprus was never going to be easy, but after 11 years here I’m just beginning to get the hang of it. You can read a free sample about my journey here.