A Soviet airman who was identified as the pilot who shot down a South Korean jumbo jet with 269 persons on board said in a state television interview tonight that he had sent repeated warning signals to the plane.
A four-minute broadcast on the evening news also included interviews with two other pilots involved in the action against the Boeing 747 10 days ago and film of jets scrambling to intercept what was said to be a U.S. reconnaissance plane approaching Soviet territory. It was clearly designed to bolster the Soviet case that local defense commanders acted properly in shooting down the plane after concluding that it was engaged in a U.S. spy mission.
The pilot of the Su15 interceptor that downed the jumbo jet above Sakhalin Island spoke dispassionately of the events in the early morning hours of Sept. 1, which have triggered a new crisis in relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. He was not identified but he was clean shaven, appeared to be in his late thirties and was casually dressed.
The pilot said that he had flown toward the South Korean plane flashing an internationally accepted signal meaning "you are an intruder" and instructing the plane to land.
"I fired four tracer shells right next to him, but there was no reaction. If we could have landed him at the airport, we could have discovered everything behind this," the pilot said.
The pilot said the tracer shells could be seen for "many kilometers"--despite the fact that earlier Soviet statements have spoken of very poor visibility in the area.
He added: "But he continued to fly on the same course, at the same height, and I received a precise, definite order . . ." Later, the Soviet news agency Tass said the pilot also said he received the order "to terminate the flight. I fulfilled the order."
Another Soviet pilot in a second interceptor said he was convinced that the South Korean plane was "a spy plane, possibly a bomber."
"If it had been up to me I would not have hesitated. It would have turned out just the same, I would not have let this aircraft pass," he said.
The television news item also included an interview with an interceptor pilot on Kamchatka Peninsula who said he had pursued Korean Air Lines Flight 007 when it entered Soviet airspace. He supported Soviet claims that the jet flew without navigation lights.
"The plane was in total darkness. There were no signs of illumination on the aircraft even on its dark side," said the Kamchatka pilot who was dressed in a flight suit.
None of the Soviet pilots mentioned trying to get in touch with the civilian plane via radio, which is one of the key elements in the Kremlin's defense. U.S. officials have said that no warnings were given before the airliner was brought down.
Tass tonight accused the United States of concealing whether the South Korean airliner had reported its passage over checkpoints along the normal route. It said that transcripts of radio traffic between the plane and ground control had not been made public.
Tass said that the only piece of evidence that the White House had made public was its own version of the conversation of Soviet pilots who pursued the South Korean plane. Such tapes, it said, had been meddled with before in the United States.