"We are investigating the theory that it was industrial sabotage," the GRU officer is quoted as saying. He said that Russian intelligence has long monitored the activities of US military electronic specialists at the Jakarta airport.
"We know that they have special equipment that can cut communications between an aircraft and the ground or interfere with the parameters on board," he said. "For example, the plane is flying at one altitude, but after interference from the ground onboard equipment shows another."
The investigation has so far turned up the plane's "black box" cockpit voice recorder, which shows that no system-failure alarms went off during the plane's final minutes, nor did the crew take any audible emergency action. But the aircraft's digital flight recorder, which monitors flight systems and engine performance, remains missing in the rough jungle terrain around Mount Salak, where at least seven other deadly air disasters have occurred.
The biggest question about the crash is why the SuperJet's pilot, Alexander Yablontsev, one of Russia's most experienced test pilots, requested permission to descend amid a rainstorm in a notoriously mountainous area – and why a ground controller in Jakarta granted that permission.
"Maybe he didn't see that the plane was heading straight at the mountain. On the other hand, we don't rule out the possibility that this was deliberate industrial sabotage to drive our aircraft from the market," an unnamed official at Sukhoi, the plane's manufacturer, told Komsomolskaya Pravda. "Fortunately, we don't foresee any loss of orders [for the SuperJet]."