The Royal Australian Air Force's 5th C-17A Globemaster III (Image © Boeing)

Australian C-17 & Dutch C-130s repatriate MH17 victims

The Royal Australian Air Force's 5th C-17A Globemaster III (Image © Boeing)
The Royal Australian Air Force’s 5th C-17A Globemaster III (Image © Boeing)

LATEST UPDATE 8 AUGUST 2014 | The repatriation mission in Eastern Ukraine to repatriate the bodies of the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 ended on 8 August 2014.

On 22 July 2014 Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17A Globemaster IIIs and several Royal Netherlands Air Force C-130H Hercules airlifters established a so-called “air bridge” between Eindhoven Airbase in the Netherlands and Charkov (Kharkiv) Airbase in Ukraine to repatriate the bodies of the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. The first 40 victims arrived in Eindhoven on Wednesday 23 July. A further 74 coffins arrived at Eindhoven on Thursday 25 July. More flights with the remains of 75 victims followed in total.

In a quiet but heart breaking ceremony, the coffins were unloaded from both a Royal Netherlands Air Force C-130 Hercules and a Royal Australian Air Force C-17. The Australian aircraft already touched down in Eindhoven on Tuesday, ready for return flights to Kharkiv. The Australians have given the repatriation flight the name Operation Bring Them Home.

Flight MH17 – a 17 year old Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777-200 –  was downed east of the city of Donetsk on 17 July 2014 by – according to the most recent evidence – a Novator 9K37 Buk (9К37 Бук in Russian, NATO reporting name SA-11 Gadfly) tracked surface-to-air missile system supplied by Russia to pro-Russian separatists. The Buk might even have been operated by regular Russian military personnel, but that is still unconfirmed at this stage.

Shrapnel
Meanwhile, evidence of the missile attack is building up. Pictures of wreckage in The New York Times and posted on Twitter, show clear signs of shrapnel damage to the aircraft, consistent with a missile exploding in close proximity. An SA-11 is designed to detonate very close to its target, sending out large amounts of shrapnel.

At the same time, the BBC is reporting that pieces of wreckage have disappeared from the crash site, or appear to have been ‘cut into’, possibly to remove evidence.

Experts
A total of 298 people were killed when the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 with registration 9M-MRD was shot out of the sky, including 194 Dutch and 37 Australian citizens. Australia has sent identification specialists, forensic experts, security investigators and diplomatic personnel to both the Netherlands and Ukraine.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editors Elmer van Hest, Dennis Spronk and Marcel Burger, including source information from the Dutch Ministry of Defence

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A RNLAF C-130H Hercules, beloning to 336 Squadron based at Eindhoven (Image © Elmer van Hest)
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