Turkey shoots down Russian plane: Physicists say both official accounts are scientifically impossible

Dr Tom van Doorsslaere and Dr Giovanni Lapenta from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven say the plane was travelling too fast for Turkey's account and could not do the 90 degree turn Russia claims it did

Two Belgian astrophysicists have questioned both the official accounts of how a Russian military plane was shot down by Turkey on Tuesday. 

Writing a blogpost for their university, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Dr Tom van Doorsslaere and Dr Giovanni Lapenta, said the plane could not have gone down the way either country said it had. 

The Russian warplane was shot down by Turkish authorities on Tuesday and crashed a few miles into Syria. 

Turkey said it gave Russia 10 warnings about violating its airspace before firing but Russia has dismissed these claims as “rubbish”. 

After watching a video of the incident which was posted online Dr van Doorsslaere and Dr Lapenta said according to their calculation the plane was travelling faster than Turkey said it was. 

Turkey said the plane was in their airspace for 17 seconds but the physicists concluded that when travelling at a speed of 980 km/h (609 m/h) the plane would have crossed over in just seven seconds. 

From this they said it was extremely unlikely they issued ten warnings in five minutes because the plane travelling at that speed could cross 80km (50m) in 80 seconds.

They said: “How could the Turkish airforce predict that the Russian jets were about to enter Turkish airspace? 

“Military jets are very agile, and in theory the Russian jets could have turned at the last moment to avoid Turkish airspace. 

“The warnings issued to the Russian pilots were mere speculation at the moment they were made.”

But they don’t think Russian authorities are being entirely honest either. 

A map released by Russian authorities purporting to show where the plane made a 90 degree turn

Russia has claimed the plane made a 90 degree turn after it was hit and it was actively trying to avoid Turkish airspace. 

They explained that at that speed:  “A change of course of 90 degrees can only be achieved with an object that’s many times heavier or faster than the jet.”

They concluded: “According to our calculations, it is clear that both the story of Turkey and Russia should be taken with a grain of salt.

“Estimates limit the violation of Turkish airspace to a maximum of 10s. Russia's claims not correspond to the laws of mechanics.”