On September 1, 1983, a Soviet SU-15 shot a Korean civilian 747 airliner from the sky. All 269 passengers on board perished. Korean authorities publicly stated the plane had mistakenly strayed off its intended course by some 365 miles. This was caused by a technical error programmed into the inertial navigation system by the plane's pilot, according to Korean authorities. Unfortunately, the plane entered Soviet territory over the Kamchatka peninsula where submarines were located and, on the night of the flight, a secret test of an SS-25 Soviet missile reportedly was planned. A U.S. RC-135 spy plane was in the area, and it is assumed the Soviets believed they were destroying the RC-135 or a civilian version of a spy plane. Soviet Colonel Gennadi Osipovich was the pilot given the responsibility of challenging and eventually shooting and destroying Korean Airlines flight 007. Osipovich recalled in a 1996 interview in the New York Times how he pulled alongside the airliner and recognized in the dark the configuration of windows indicating a civilian airliner. He believed this civilian airliner could have a military use and believes to this day, according to the interview, that the plane was on a spy mission. He regrets not shooting the plane down over land so that such proof could be recovered. If Osipovich had waited another twenty to twenty-five seconds to destroy the plane, KAL 007 would have been over neutral territory, which most likely would have averted the incident. A serious U.S.-Soviet diplomatic fallout ensued.
See also: korea, relations with