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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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452 Comments

  1. It doesn't add up...

    The video in this tweet covers the last minute+ before the crash. The overhead gantries allow geolocation, with the vehicle travelling at about 60kph from the speedometer. It’s unfortunate that an overtaking truck obscures the view a few seconds before the crash, perhaps hiding a key moment.

    https://twitter.com/MohammadAtshani/status/1215514203966136321

    The accompanying comment translated from Persian reads:

    The film captures one of the relatives on the way back from Imam Airport at the moment of the #AirChurch #Ukraine incident. It was quite characteristic that the plane was on fire in the sky for a few minutes. Doesn’t the missile strike the plane in the tail and detonate it?

    Reply
      • It doesn't add up...

        That’s the point: there appears to have been a missile strike just before the plane crashed. It would be interesting to have a Farsi speaker translate the vehicle passenger comments, in case their naked eye vision reveals something more than the video camera.

        Reply
    • It doesn't add up...

      I think that prior to the sudden change of direction just before the crash, the aircraft had been heading for the airport outer marker beacon to the East of the runway, from which a final approach might have been made. It’s surely what a pilot would try to do.

      I am struggling to make sense of the apparently incongruous positions of aircraft parts in the crash site photos. It seems quite probable that some pieces were moved before photographers were admitted, even though some photos appear to have been taken just after dawn. There is of course the mystery of the cockpit and upper fuselage not appearing in the photos at the site, but only in reconstruction. There is also a small section of fuselage that did not burn, with lettering clearly visible.

      Reply
  2. Mark Keogh

    The range from observer to missile impact may be slightly too large, most seem to be using 343 m/s to calculate the slant range based on a time delay of 10.7 seconds.

    The speed of sound at 8000ft ASL – and indeed at ground level for the witness – will be *slower* than that at sea-level. Assuming standard temperature & pressure, etc. the speed of sound at 1000m (ground-level for observer) is only 335m/s and at 2415m it is around 325m/s. These values depend very much on local air temperature that night.

    If we (reasonably) average it at 330m/s, this gives a slant range of 3531m.

    Using good old Pythagoras again and assuming the aircraft altitude was indeed still approx. 1415m AGL (7925ft ASL) as per the last ADS-B update, we get a ground range of only 3235m.

    A small decrease, but it all adds up!

    Reply
    • It doesn't add up...

      I looked at the implications of ground level topography, flight trajectory and sound speed several days ago. The aircraft was last known to be climbing at almost 3000 ft/min, so was probably higher. The elevation of the video is higher than the airport at around 1100m. The speed of sound is mainly a function of temperature (secondarily of humidity that alters the average molecular weight of air). The “altitude” effect is in fact just the result of lower temperatures, not lower pressure. The METAR data for the airport was -1C, and it would have been somewhat colder at 9000ft. Taking all those factors into account, I came to a ground range of 3.5km, in agreement with your figure.

      Reply
      • Mark Keogh

        I just put in “standard temp” & pressure out of habit, but you are absolutely correct!

        Do you have more METAR data for Khomeini that night?

        Reply
  3. Nancy Nicolle

    I have anger for the murders of those victims.
    But my heart breaks for the world wide victims.

    Reply
  4. It doesn't add up...

    This looks interesting.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeMoXqbqLBA

    The first missile explodes some seconds after its fuel runs out at 20 seconds in. The second one explodes 23 seconds later, in line with the idea that the first one knocked out the transponder, and alerted those on the ground to film the second one. We also have a potential initial track of the burning plane. We also have a clear bearing to deduce to the launch site. The second missile is fired at 31 seconds, which gives a further clue through the 12 second flight time, allowing a radius to be drawn from the intercept point.

    Reply
  5. TS

    The camera man is the standing on the roof of the building (located at the military air base) ready to record it even before the missiles are launched. This does not match with “only 10 seconds” statement. Seems suspicious.

    Reply
    • TS

      CORRECTION: The camera is mounted and not handheld. It is located at 35°32’40.58″N 50°58’17.23″E (just behind the antenna on the building). The earlier footage was a zoomed version.

      Reply
      • DP

        New VDO shows 2 missile fired at the airplane. This VDO show the second missile. The cameraman probably picks up his phone when he heard the first missile.

        This corroborates with the fact that the transponder stops broadcasting around 20-30 seconds before the impact in this VDO. The first missile probably disabled the transponder.

        Reply
      • CF

        I disagree because the angles are all wrong. A camera at that site could not capture both missiles, the launch site, and the crashing aircraft on the nearly reciprocal heading from the runway, perpendicular to the viewer, but toward a crash site miles behind the viewpoint. And it’s far too close for the aircraft to be that close to the horizon at the time of missile impacts (would appear much higher). It’s much farther to the NE.

        I’m still looking but have to stop for now. When this is all said and done, I think the camera will be closer to the towns of Ferdosiye or Amirieh.

        Reply
  6. Jeroen

    Fars reported today one Iranian who made a film about the Ukraine airplane being shot down was arrested. It is not know for what reason.

    Reply
  7. James Bond

    From old video and this video it seems that the missiles are not Tor-m1 missile system. It may be Pantsir or other missile system.

    Reply
    • Mark Keogh

      Tor has a pretty unique launch signature whereby it ejects the missile vertically, gas charges orient the nose towards the target, then the rocket motor fires.

      It is very different to “conventional” rail/tube launch of Pantsir/SA-22. If the CCTV video in higher resolution can show the ejection/orientation flashes we’ll know it was a Tor. At the moment available video quality seems too poor to determine for sure.

      Reply
      • RECON

        @ TS – January 14, 2020
        @ James Bond
        @ Mark Keogh

        1. The CCT camera on the roof of the building.
        I believe that the video, shown on youtube is more or less only a recording of an cct camera, recorded from a monitor or a screen. There is too much movement in the recording.

        2. 9K330 Tor aka SA15 GAUNTLET vs 96K6 PANZIR aka SA22 or similar (Rocket 57E6 or 57E6-E)
        If you look at the pictures (close to a road) with the parts of the SA15 and compare with pictures of PANZIR Rocket there is a signifikant difference between them.
        Looking 10 and more times with slow motion on the cct recording, you can see a small delay in the beginning of the start sequence from both launches. This could be a start of the SA15, caused by the flash and the missile heading away from the launcher, again activated with a bit delay, after been ejected from the pod!

        Did someone recognised the position of the sat-dish on the roof of the building?
        Might be a good indicator for the cct position too.
        The dish is equiped with 2-3 LNB´s. I nwant to mention that there is definatly the TV-SAT HOTBIRD on geosynchronous position 13° EAST, and probably 2 others from 53° east to 97° east for possible tv reception in IRN.
        (synchronous sat position over the equator)

        Therefor, the dish is more or less heading to the south (one LNB`s may heading to 13° /53° or/and 97°east) (not 100% confirmed). May i am wrong with that. According to the possible LNB`s and the SAT-TV position, the launcher should be more or less about 5-15° West of the TV Dish direction.

        Is someone maybe able to confirm that?

        Reply

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