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Video Apparently Showing Flight PS752 Missile Strike Geolocated to Iranian Suburb

January 9, 2020

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

Translations: Русский

On January 9th, a video spread online after it was posted onto a public Telegram channel showing what was apparently a mid-air explosion. The New York Times has contacted the person who filmed the video, received it in high resolution, and confirmed its authenticity. Below, an annotated version of the video created by Jake Godin (Newsy) highlights the events of the brief clip. (Uploaded directly here)

We have geolocated this video to a residential area in Parand (coordinates 35.489414, 50.906917), a suburb to the west of Imam Khomeini International Airport, from which Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 (PS752) departed to Kyiv.

The camera here is facing northeast, towards the flight trajectory of PS752. A number of elements in the source video can be found in satellite imagery, including a series of apartment blocks, a number of light fixtures, and a construction area to the immediate left of the camera position. In new satellite imagery posted on Terraserver dated 15 November 2019 (not included in this article due to copyright issues), the buildings visible in the video are constructed and in the same position.

By measuring the time that it took for the camera to hear the explosion (~10.7 seconds), we estimated the straight-line distance of the event from the camera at approximately 3.6 kilometers. By using the Pythagoras theorem, we calculated the land distance from the camera to the event to be approximately 3.3 kilometers. We then cross-referenced this distance with our tentative geolocation of the video, and also plotted the flight trajectory of PS752 (taken from from FlightRadar24, found here). The land location of the event aligned with the trajectory of the plane as extended based on FlightRadar24’s data.

[Note: We made a slight adjustment to the vertical side of the triangle, resulting in an extension of the radius by 500 meters (2.8 to 3.3 kilometers). The graphic below is adjusted accordingly. Thank you to our readers who helped notice a necessary change in the elevation.]

It is unclear why the person holding the camera was filming at the time, but it is possible that there were two missiles, prompting the decision to start filming for the second strike. The New York Times reported that the person filming started doing so after hearing “some sort of shot fired“.

Unresolved questions around missile fragment

While the footage showing an apparent missile strike has been geolocated, two photographs apparently showing part of a Tor M-1 missile have yet to be verified, despite claims from a number of sources. The warhead is located midway on the missile, meaning that its nose may not be destroyed in an explosion. A number of similar photographs of Tor missile fragments have been taken in eastern Ukraine, but none have been discovered to be the same as the ones attributed to the recent incident.

The origin of these photographs is still being determined, as the people who snapped the images have not come forward publicly. This object is likely located in a residential area near Parand, not near the crash site. Both of the images show the same location and object, as seen with many of the same rocks and damage patterns on the curb.

If you make any progress in geolocating these two photographs of the missile fragment, please leave your ideas in the comments, or tweet at us.

 

Update: New photographs and videos from this location in Parand confirm the geolocation.

Edit: A previous version of this story had a typo in the title for “PS572” instead of “PS752”. This has been fixed, but the typo persists in the URL.

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444 Comments

  1. CF

    If you look at the structure on the hill at N35° 31.575′ E50° 55.148′, the azimuth is almost an exact fit for the newly released video that shows the launch itself.

    I took the .kmz of the flight path generated by Flightaware (transponder/ADS-B) and imported it into Google Earth. If that is indeed the launch site, then because of terrain masking from a hill at N35° 31′ E50° 56′, PS752 would have been visible to that site for only 1 minute and 27 seconds prior to the loss of transponder data (first impact), at a slant-range point 6.71km from the presumed launch site. Assuming a first impact at that point and the nominal average speed of a 9M330, that missile would have had to have been launched roughly 10-12 seconds prior. This means the flight was visible to that site for almost exactly 1 minute before the first salvo was launched. The right turn on-course by the aircraft would have happened 14 seconds before launch, according to radar data.

    Assuming the aircraft speed (275 knots) and bearing did not change after the first attack and subsequent loss of transponder data, the second missile was launched roughly 32 seconds later.

    It would be interesting to see the car alarm reset times for the white vehicle in the launch video, as the alarm clearly stops 7 seconds before the second launch (of course, it could have been deactivated by the owner). It depends upon whether the alarm was activated by the sound of the first launch, the missile flying overhead, or the concussion from the first explosion. If it was from the first explosion, then the sound would have reached that parking lot roughly 15 seconds after the first impact, or 17 seconds before the second launch, which equates to a 10 second activation time.

    Reply
    • It doesn't add up...

      There is a flash just 5 seconds after the launch – presumably the missile exploding. It doesn’t appear to be the missile admitted to by the Iranians, which was supposedly fired from Bidganeh.

      Reply
      • sasquatch

        I feel like you should be able to come up with a line of possible launch sites based on the distance data in this article and the missile video. Come up with an angle of the missile in that video compared to, lets’ say a building that should be straight vertical. We know roughly the altitude of the aircraft and the distance away.

        I think this should get a line you can plot on a map of possible launch sites. Not terribly accurate for at least the unknown altitude variable but… might be interesting.

        Reply
        • sasquatch

          One better… figure out where the horizon is and the distance between it and the aircraft. This with the distance to the aircraft should get the altitude at the moment of impact.

          Time to bring out the pen and paper.

          Reply
          • CF

            Did this a while back. The hardest part is estimating the height of the buildings in the foreground of the video of the impact. If they are roughly 21m tall, then at a distance of 106.3m to the videographer, that is an angle of roughly 11.2° from the horizon to the top of the building. If you do a rough extrapolation of the angle to the missile impact, that puts it at about 2.6x the elevation of the building (discounting arc) and an angle above horizon of 29.2°.

            So at a nominal horizontal distance of 3611m to the supposed impact hypocenter, that equates to the impact occuring at an altitude of 1762m (5,781′) above video location or 2931m QNH (9,619′ MSL).

            Working instead from the last transponder readings, the aircraft was climbing at a 5.8° angle (10.2% slope). From the loss of transponder data to the presumed second impact, the aircraft traveled 5.15km, so starting at the last return of 2238m QNH (7344′ MSL) a 5.8°angle over that distance equates to an altitude gain of 523.1m (1,716′), which would put it at 2761m QNH (9,058′ MSL). A pilot would measure this in feet per minute (FPM), and at 270kts, that equates to a 2860 FPM climb – well within the performance envelope of a 737-800.

            Granted, speed, climb rate, even heading could have changed in those ~38 seconds between transponder loss and the second impact. But if it was a steady climb, the rough video angle and presumed flight track get us to within 600′, which is well inside the ballpark.

          • sasquatch

            Alright so…. I came up with a launch site somewhere along a line from the camera at bearing 354. But I have to stress, none of my measurements I would consider “accurate.” I simply wanted an approximation to see if I could derive a reasonable heading.

            The caveats…
            Assumed the aircraft altitude is 1.3km at impact
            the camera lens being relatively flat
            The heading to the impact site being approx. 32.8 degrees
            The position of the horizon in the missile video
            I entered trajectories linearly which is not what a missile would do as it would usually arc. So this would skew results the closer the site is to the camera as the farther away gives the missile time to straighten itself out.

            What I did… feel free to giggle but hey, I just wanted approximations.
            I took a frame from the video showing the missile trajectory near the point of impact. In a photo editor I extended the trajectories and derived a horizon line from the buildings in the frame.
            From this I get a triangle for which would roughly share the same angles with a triangle parallel to the camera from the point of impact (unless the camera is fish eyeing). Relevant angle being 25.9degrees
            From this I get a point on the ground that isn’t necessarily a launch site as the missile could be coming towards or away from the camera and still create the same visible track we see in the video.
            Next I get a relative angle from this point compared to the impact point and camera. 32.8 minus 38.575
            Compare this difference in angle towards the compass bearing to the impact point and I get a compass bearing of 354.2 degrees

            And of course, I’ve already been assuming I knew the direction of the launch and this happens to line up with my assumptions so… my trig could be REALLY rusty and I just got the result I wanted. Who knows.

            Also, maybe this was only one of the missiles and another came from another location?

            Anyways… this predicts a launch site towards either of those two unmarked complexes North of Parand near 35°29’21.9″N 50°54’24.9″E or farther north.

          • sasquatch

            oops.. I just noticed I copy/pasted the wrong final coordinates… I blame google maps for me not copying the right numbers…
            35°29’21.9″N 50°54’24.9″E is the position of the camera

            I meant to say… 35.563092, 50.896875 for a possible site on my derived bearing of 354 from the camera.

      • CF

        I agree. If the missile was fired from Bidganeh, I believe we would have seen much more cross-range maneuvering as it would have been into the terminal phase of flight by the time it crested the ridge from that vantage point. We are instead seeing the initial, vertical launch from a facility on that ridge.

        Reply
        • Markus Kuehbacher

          The exact time of the transponder loss is unknown. Known is the time of the last ADS-B data package received. Compare the Flightradar24 data of the previous PS752 flights before the downing.

          The question is: when did the missile operator saw the airplane on his radar and when did he pushed the button for the first and the second missile.

          The next timeline to investigate should be the time it took to finish the filling of the bodybags.

          Reply
        • CF

          I’ve been working out animations and fields of view on Google Earth all evening and I think it actually is quite possible that the missile was launched from the base farther to the NW. The averaged speeds from the closest point of the fenced area (and even somewhat beyond) do work out to be within the nominal envelope of the 9M331.

          Looking at my animation from the viewpoint of a hypothetical operator at the southernmost, fenced-in area of that base, the aircraft would have become visible over the mountains at a point N35.4622° E50.9972° while climbing through 6243′ MSL. This would have given a missile operator about 10-20 seconds of alert before a hypothetical first shot (which would have hit between the time of the last ADS-B packet and the “smoker” video/2nd shot impact). If there was only one shot (the one observed), then the aircraft was visible for 49 seconds before that shot was taken.

          Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of data to go by in the 25 seconds between the last data block received and the time the observed shot would have been fired, so this timeline needs work.

          The observed shot, worked out from the “launch” video, may have been fired 8 to 9 seconds before the observed impact. In this scenario, the missile crests the hill while over a point roughly N35.5422° E50.9087 at an altitude of 5400′ MSL, 3.5 seconds after launch and 5.5 seconds before impact. In that 5.5 seconds, it traverses 4050m slant range, for an average speed of 736m/s, well within the envelope posted to twitter (in fact, very near the average of the speed decay curve from 4-10 seconds into flight).

          Using the building in the foreground of the “smoker” video as an angular reference, and using the estimated distance to impact, the velocity of the missile observed seems to be in the 600-700m/s range, again very near the curve of the posted envelope at 9-10 seconds after launch.

          Reply
          • sasquatch

            Trying to figure out some names here… the two fenced in areas might be part of the Shahid Modarres Missile Base or Moddares garrison missile base.

            35°37’28.5″N 50°52’29.5″E being the site of the Bidganeh arsenal explosion or Bid Kaneh explosion. The event was in 2011 and the current image makes it appear as if the site wasn’t rebuilt. Possible that activities were moved?
            35°37’26.2″N 50°54’50.1″E is what I have for the base itself while i’m assuming the two complexes to the south as being part of the same base. But that is a significant assumption.

        • It doesn't add up...

          Christiaan Triebert did a good job of analysing the latest CCTV missile video here:
          https://twitter.com/trbrtc/status/1215917506189197313
          https://twitter.com/trbrtc/status/1215919768051634176

          It’s not Bigdaneh! even with some stretch. If that was the location, and we trust the 19km range figure for the radar, then they would have picked up on it just about 6km after takeoff, much earlier, and while the plane was still headed in line with the runway.

          There are still questions about other missile(s).

          Reply
          • CF

            A launcher positioned at the southern portion of Bigdaneh is well within the envelope of the 933M1. I’m not saying it with certainty, because all we have is azimuth data and the flight path is on a relative reciprocal bearing. However, for it to have come from the hill closer to Parand, it doesn’t quite fit the flight envelope – actually being a little on the slow side. The flight path should have also been at a steeper angle in the “smoker” video. Of course, it could have been launched from somewhere in between.

            Hopefully another video surfaces.

    • hi

      why would the transponder stop after the first impact when the pilot is still able to fly the plane? could it be related to the communication jamming experience by the SA-15? i believe the missile would still be able to guide under these ECM conditions while comms with high command are disabled and the transponder of the plane are disabled

      Reply
      • sasquatch

        I think the general thought is that communications likely stopped due to damage to the radios or electronics/power. Radio damage wouldn’t inherently impair flight controls, depending on the extent of the damage. Or even if it did, damage from the missile in the video could impart a wide banking turn to the right to get the aircraft to the crash site with minimal or no pilot input.

        However, jamming is theoretically possible from the standpoint of countering a cruise missiles navigation system. GPS signals typically as Inertial Guidance is internal. The feasibility and practically of this is maybe questionable but the RQ-170 “downing” in 2011 could signify a capability by Iran.

        The question of the radios should be answered if the investigation gets anything from the aircrafts voice data recorder. As well as affirmation of the number of “events” that could correspond with missile strikes or other failures. Hopefully, but this is maybe wishful thinking, they’ll release truthful reports by those operators and the flight controllers at IKA since they should still have been on their scopes for at least part of this mess.

        Reply
        • D1

          Just a note, it would be implausible that the missile was using GPS as opposed to GLONASS given the provenance of the weapons system. Like the U.S. GPS system, GLONASS operates with a restricted high precision mode if the receiver is equipped with this capability and decoding information. Military equipment in the U.S. typically uses the encrypted signal as this is more technically challenging to spoof, though still may be outright jammed. I would suspect if the Iranians are using the GLONASS restricted signal they would not jam this particular feed as it would not be in use (ostensibly) by an adversary using U.S. or European military equipment. For this same reason I am highly suspicious that GPS spoofing was responsible for the RQ-170 downing.
          The downed flight however could have very likely been subject to EW and thus the ADS-B would have been affected.
          That the Iranians were allowing civil aviation to operate in the threat context of this incident, especially if they were operating EW speaks to either 1. Lack of professionalism and command and control by their armed forces or, 2. Complete disregard for human life. Both are plausible especially the latter when you consider that protesters are being shot in the back.

          Reply
  2. Dany Mailloux

    i,m french canadian, I am happy to discover that my personal research, although less documented than yours, comes up with a similar result: 2 missiles Parrand(terrorist attack) & shahedsharh (Iranian defence)

    Reply
  3. Dany Mailloux

    Hypothèse sur le vol PS752:
    après le décollage a 2:42:00 UTC, les communications sont rompues avec le vol au dessus de la localité de Parrand a 2:45:00 UTC approx (+/-30 sec.) le 1 er missile pourrait avoir frappé au alentour de 2:44:15 UTC (les données deviennent illogiques: vitesse/montée)
    https://www.flightradar24.com/data/flights/ps752#23732569
    la vidéo qui circule sur les grands réseaux d’information vient de cette localité et nous montre que ”CE” missille ne vient pas du système de défense des iraniens mais plutot d’une arme de faible puissance, mais toujours assez puissante pour faire enflammé un moteur et mettre HS les systèmes de communication radio , data, et très important, l’identification de l’appareil.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Yct7Zyegio&t=12s de 0:11 a 0:18
    l’équipage amorce alors un retour vers l’aéroport , le système de défense iranien, voit sur leur radar un lancement de missile, la disparition d’un avion et l’apparition d’un appareil non identifié, hors du réseaux de traffic aérien habituelle, sans communication, dans une zone extrémement critique, il abbattent l’avion dans le secteur de shahedsharhr a (selon certaines sources) 2:48:00 UTC (les calculs de distance et de vitesse estimée situe suppose -1 à -2 minutes
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_iizkgIOfU de 0:09 a 0:29
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7G9S9ahUEsde de 2:00 a 2:29
    de la frappe du 1er missile a l’écrasement au sol, moins de 3min, 30 sec pour prendre une décision critique, avec toute sorte d’information difficile a évalué
    ce qui supposerais que nous parlions donc ici d’un attentat terroriste … ”manqué” suivis d’une terrible …”erreur”
    la question est de savoir qui a tiré le missile dans la localité de Parrand et pourquoi?, car l’Iran admet sa terrible ”erreur”, le 2e missile qui as mis un terme aux efforts de l’équipage de ramener l’appareil a l’aéroport.
    -le gouvernement américain confirme 2 missiles
    celui qui a pris les images à 6:12am heure locale par une température proche du point de congélation, est-ce qu’il filme souvent les avions qui passent la nuit a 5000 pieds d’altitude ou savait-il a l’avance qu’il y aurait un problème avec le vol PS752?
    P.S. : si je dis quelquechose qui est totallement incorrect veuillez m’en faire part, avec les précisions sur l’erreur, j’émet ici un hypothèse, tient-elle la route?

    Reply
    • M

      Subtle self-advertising. 🙂
      You are not only an intelligent polyglot who knows almost everything on on any subject 🙂 but you also have the ability to predict the future Minion 😉 Or someone give you a tip.
      Kudos 🙂

      Reply
    • Servus

      Thanks for the link.
      Some commentators say that Ukrainian investigation team arrived quickly on site and found missile fragments, so there was no chance of hiding the truth.
      Also the missile battery that shot the plane was under Revolutionary Guard’s command while rest of Teheran air defense was carried out by Iranian Air Force. The two organisations compete and have conflicts with each other.
      RG lied to the Iranian authorities for 3 ,
      days and tried to destroy evidence, .apparently the Leader was mad about it and Air Force carried out the accident’s analysis and did not fail to accuse the rival of lying and shooting down the passenger plane .
      Very different political situation from Russia while both countries’ authorities cant be trusted.

      Reply
  4. TS

    The transponder could have been switched off in an attempt to evade the missile(s). That could also explain the sharp turn to the right. It looks like the transponder was swiched off just after the plane enters the missile range.

    -TS

    Reply
        • mark

          I am a line pilot. They suffered a sudden and multiple systems failure.
          Control is possible but according to the fact that they were losing pieces when falling: one side must have sustained substantial aiframe damage due to missile and fire. I guess that Fin and Horizontal Stabilizers were in somewhat functional status to allow them to avoid total loss of control. I guess also that they lost a lot of flight navigation systems. Try to imagine that: At night , On fire , No power , No Nav , Poor control. They were desperate and trying to land anywhere the best they could and they did.

          Reply
          • sasquatch

            There are some images of the engine remains that look like one received more damage than the other. One was missing, to my eye, the fan and low pressure compressor and didn’t look too burned. Mostly crushed. Where the other looks to have just the high pressure compressor remaining and looks noticeable burned. To my eye at least.
            Certainly doesn’t mean that both didn’t fail but perhaps only one was on fire?

            Hats off to that flight crew. If they didn’t manage that turn as far as they did… I really don’t want to think about that on top of what happened.

  5. Matthias

    Have you already seen this footage?
    Seems to show the struggling plane in air – but burning – for a complete minute.
    Therefore, possibility is high that crew had some control over the plane as right turn might indicate.

    Reply
    • Feng

      I speculate that the plane was severely crippled by the warhead, possibly having lost hydraulics, therefore very hard to control, this coupled with the raging fire means they may have ran out of time.

      Reply
    • Rob

      The footage of a CCV camera from a parking lot in NW Parand shows the launch of a missile, the impact after 5.3 seconds, the shockwave back to the ground in 4.45 sec which sets off car alarms.
      https://twitter.com/trbrtc/status/1215907053870493696

      That information alone suggests the missile was fired from a location close to the airport, and not from the “secret missile launch site” suggested earlier :
      https://twitter.com/Andycap007/status/1216451369512701952

      Also, the car alarms are already blinking at the start of the video, which suggests there was another missile strike and explosion before this one in the video.

      Reply
  6. Jeroen

    Families of MH17 passengers react to shooting down of PS752
    “Same story again”
    “No justice for MH17 victims while Putin is in power families of MH17 react to PS752 shooting down
    https://en.hromadske.ua/posts/no-justice-for-mh17-while-putin-is-in-power-families-of-mh17-victims-react-to-ps752

    Iran is a people of honour, a mistake was made.
    But one should come clear, and thruth is much more of value than lies.
    This Russian governement will go into history as liars.
    Liars about invading Crimea
    Liars about invading Luhansk-Donetsk
    Liars about MH17
    Liars about much more….
    Well if Russian people are happy with that it is their choice
    The rest of the world does not accept this “Russki Mir”
    Iranians we are proud of you, you show the world how better to act.

    Reply
    • Servus

      Denial and lies are a second nature of NKVD/KGB/FSB and the Russian state.

      My favorite lie is 50+ years of denials that Julius and Ethel Rosenbergs (executed in US in 1950) were soviet spies.

      Aleksandr Feklisov, retired NKVD colonel , their recruiter and case officer was outraged that Rosenbergs were not recognized and awarded Hero of USSR award, that he wrote a book about their heroic treason (2000).

      Reply
    • Joey

      I don’t see RU lies with MH17 but massive RU lies with PL101 (Smolensk), and both PL101 and MH17 were served as if as presents to Frau Merkel at feast days of hers, both damaging two of her enemies: Poland (but curiously not Russia as if RU acted in Smolensk in consent with and/or on a commission by all the good ones in the West) and then Russia “for bringing down planes”, as a false “obvious culprit”. In this new case again an “obvious culprit” was nailed from the first second, but I am not informed enough about possibly yet another symbolic connection via an allusion, a “telling” number game as in both previous cases. Merkel and Putin love each other again and openly, MH17 is forgiven for splendid polebashing by Putin as of late, more common projects will follow. Was PS752 already one of them?

      Reply
  7. TS

    So The US knew long in advance the Iranian cruise missiles were coming, but a US cruise missile could potentially make its way till the Capital of Iran without being noticed? This seems very unlikely to me. In the Shayrat missile strike in 2017 60 US cruise missile were launched. Why would the US only fire one this time? It would have been intercepted several times. Why would you make up a story about an engine failure? Why would you try to hide the black boxes? Why would you bulldoze the crash site? Why wasn’t the air space shut down?

    To me, it seems very, very planned and very litte “unintentional”.

    https://www.wired.com/story/us-missile-defense-iranian-strike/

    Reply

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