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Does Ukraine Have 9M38M1 Missiles?

June 4, 2015

By Nathan Patin

Earlier this week, Russian arms manufacturer Almaz-Antey presented its analysis of the downing of MH17 in an attempt to prove its “non-involvement in the MH17 tragedy.” The company concluded that while MH17 was downed by a 9M38M1 missile fired by a Buk M1, that particular type of missile has not been used by Russian forces since 1999. Bellingcat has since shown that, despite the Russian firm’s claims to the contrary, the 9M38M1 missile is still used by Russia, as seen in pictures as recent as March of this year.

Russian arms manufacturers and the Russian MoD don’t hold a monopoly on falsehoods and dubious claims, however. On June 4, Interfax quoted Ihor Smeshko, an advisor to the Ukrainian president and former head of the SBU as saying, “As far as I know, Ukraine sold its last Buk to Georgia.” Presumably, he was referring not to the Buk M1 missile system, but rather the 9M38M1 missile in response to claims that it may have been stolen from a Ukrainian military warehouse seized by rebels. According to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, Georgia received 48 Buk missiles from Ukraine in 2007, along with a Buk M1.

Unfortunately for Mr. Smeshko, a number of videos and pictures of Ukrainian Buks have been uploaded to social media since 2007, more than a few of which can be seen armed with 9M38M1 missiles. The 9M38M1 can be easily distinguished from other Buk missiles by its long fins:

A cellphone video uploaded March 5, 2014, shows a convoy of Buks and other Ukrainian military vehicles parked along the side of a road. Four Buks (numbered  321, 312, 331, and 332, respectively) can be seen with 9M38M1 missiles.

A video uploaded on May 8, 2014 shows a Ukrainian Buk numbered 121 being hauled by a trailer. Despite the video’s title, we geolocated this video not in Kramatorsk, but the nearby city of Krasnoarmiisk.

On July 16, 2014, a day before the downing of MH17, the Ukrainian Army released a video touting its “anti-terrorism operations” in eastern Ukraine. Halfway through the video, a Buk can be seen armed with missiles displaying the long, telltale fins of the 9M38M1.

A photograph of Ukrainian Buk 312 was uploaded to VK by a Ukrainian soldier on August 17, 2014. Again, the 9M38M1 missiles are clearly visible.

We could go on; this is just a sampling of the open source evidence confirming that Ukraine — like Russia — still employs 9M38M1 missiles on its Buk missile systems. That being said, Mr. Smeshko’s erroneous remarks only serve to distract from the real issue — and the real evidence — of who is responsible for shooting down MH17.

Nathan Patin

Nathan Patin is a Washington, D.C.-based independent researcher and private investigator at the Mintz Group, an international corporate investigations firm. He focuses on open-source investigation tools and techniques, cybercrime, and the Middle East. He has been a member of the Bellingcat Investigation Team since 2015, and he was a guest presenter at Bellingcat's 2018 Washington D.C. workshop.

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152 Comments

  1. Peter Hermann

    We know Ukraine has BUKM1 missiles, but has there ever been any evidence any working one being inside rebel held area?

    Reply
  2. Baldur Dasche

    The ‘facts’ were presented to the world by the Ukrainian government information service within minutes of MH17’s destruction: the rebels did it.

    All that was lacking was proof. Still is.

    Reply
    • Not Mark

      Can you please recap all the stories created by the russians since then? So far I have heard Ukrainian Buk, Ukrainian Su-25 Cannon, Buk and Cannon together (LOL), bomb on plane… I am sure I am missing others. So far, I haven’t seen a shred of evidence that points away from the Ukrainian claim being true.

      Reply
  3. Alex Liveson

    “On June 4, Interfax quoted Ihor Smeshko, an advisor to the Ukrainian president and former head of the SBU as saying, “As far as I know, Ukraine sold its last Buk to Georgia.”

    There’s the rub, “As far as I know” , whilst not lying it is obviously misleading.

    I have been quite critical of some of Bellingcat’s articles but kudos for pointing out the obvious, Ukraine does have 9M38M1 missiles.

    Reply
    • PatSinc

      I’m glad you accept the methodology Bellingcat uses to determine that Ukraine still has this type of weapon. It’s the same methodology Bellingcat uses to determine that the Russian army is supplying heavy weapons to the separatists. The only difference being that in the latter case they have repeatedly shown it. So you DO accept that the Russian army has been supplying the separatists?

      Reply
      • Not Mark

        This was an excellent move by Bellingcat, in my opinion. Now we can show both sides have 9M38-M1 missiles despite being misleading about possessing these missiles.

        Reply
  4. Andrew

    “the real evidence — of who is responsible for shooting down MH17”

    If you are certain of this real evidence you have presented regarding the Snizhne launch site then you should be able to refute the conclusions of the manufacturer of the BUK system, Almaz-Antey, regarding the explosion pattern of the fragments in the warhead and the damage one would expect them to inflict upon the plane, the missile flight path that can be concluded based on the damage which determines the direction of flight, and the azimuth of the missile as it exploded which determines the range it was fired at from the target. All of their conclusions are entrely against everything this website has put forth over the past 10 months on MH17 regarding the firing location of the BUK missile that took down MH17. An impartial reader would think you would have a significant interest in refuting their presentation on these key points.

    So if you are so certain, then please demonstrate where Almaz-Antey is wrong regarding the physics of the interception of the plane by the missile they designed and the path of the fragments out of the warhead they designed and into the plane.

    Almaz-Antey’s conclusions are not even “rocket science”. Many of us who are not trained weapons experts or even amateur weapons experts but who are engineers have been making the same point on other internet sites based on the location of the debris field and plane speed captured on radar (which indicates a ballastic descent following a spiral to the left), the damage patterns seen on the wreckage, the distance to detection and interception vs. the TELAR’s functional range operating without a KUPOL radar and command post since July of last year.

    Reply
    • Peter Hermann

      What you are asking for from Bellingcat is doing a complete investigation of the MH17 case and then prove to you they are right? I suggest to leave that to the dutch prosecution and the JIT. You will not accept their findings either, so it would be a moot effort in any case.

      Reply
      • Andrew

        Peter Hermann:

        “What you are asking for from Bellingcat is doing a complete investigation of the MH17 case and then prove to you they are right?”

        I am asking for an explanation of the trajectory, ballistics, and impact based on the Snizhne launch site, and an explanation of the radar acquisition timing and distance. If any of this cannot be worked out, then Snizhne is not the launch site.

        All the pictures of the rebel seized BUK Bellingcat has endlessly analyzed are pointless if the proposed launch site is physically impossible.

        To this end (and please feel free to correct and add more):

        1) The point of impact based on the extent of the debris field appears to be 20 miles (32 km) from the proposed launch site (this assumes significant material did not somehow fall backwards from the point of impact and that most of the plane continued to have forward momentum from previous thrust of the engines).

        2) The plane was travelling at 9 miles per minute (15 km per minute) at a height of 10 km.

        3) The BUK missile reaches a velocity of 1 km/s and follows a ballistic trajectory when its total calculated time to interception is significantly greater than its burn time of around 15-20 seconds to counteract the effects of gravity. In this case, the flight path would have been around 36 km long, and accounting for acceleration would have probably lasted around 40 seconds.

        4) A 40 second flight time for the rocket means the plane would have been 10 km further back at launch.

        5) The time for detection and human reaction of the launch specialist is also required to be added. After the radar is turned on and the target detected, the operator would need at the very least to react, select the target, and decide to launch. If there was any command and control involved in the decision to launch, the time of the discussion would also need to be added and would further increase the distance needed for the initial radar acquisition. Without citation, wikipedia states 22 second from target acquisition to launch. That would add 5 km of distance, and make a total of 47 km.

        6) So, based on the above, it would appear that the target radar acquisition would have to occur at least 47 km for the Snizhne site. What is the technical capability of a single TELAR Fire Dome radar? Again, without citation, wikipedia states it is the range of the missile, which is 42 km for the 9M38M1. If true, the Snizhne site was not within range of where the plane was struck.

        7) It is very clear from photos of the wreckage there is very heavy shrapnel damage to the left side of the plane and complete structural disintegration in parts of the cockpit, but so little damage to the right side that the cockpit glass actually remained intact even as the glass on the right side was completely shattered, and the right side cockpit sidewall remained attached to the interior structure and was salvaged in one piece while the left side was shredded.

        8) The Snizhne site is located at a 20 degree angle to the flight path at impact. In order for the shrapnel cloud from the warhead to travel down the length of the plane but not out the right side of the cockpit or cabin at this angle of approach, the warhead explosion would need to be primarily forward in a cone of 40-50 degrees angle centered on the axis of the missile to avoid damaging the right side of the cabin and the right wing. Since the warhead manufacturer denies this is the geometry of the explosion, it would need to be demonstrated somehow that they are lying.

        It goes without saying that a fail on any step along the way makes the Snizhne site not work as the launch site. There may have been a BUK TELAR there on July 17 (and I think there was based on the Snizhne video), but it wasn’t the one that COULD have launched the missile because it was apparently out of radar range to target and the impact on the plane does not match the direction of flight it would have taken.

        Reply
        • Not Mark

          Bellingcat is likely not qualified to make the kind of analysis you are suggesting here. Even if they did, you would not accept it anyways so why bother? This argument you have made has been made many many other times in several of these articles. Even with all the seemingly adequate responses we have given to refute these kinds of claims the original poster is never satisfied or stops responding altogether. I will not waste my time reinventing the wheel here.

          Reply
          • Jason

            Pure sophistry: “Even if they did, you would not accept it anyways so why bother?”

          • Not Mark

            Jason, it is very evident you have no interest in being convinced that your view of the situation is incorrect. I think God himself could appear before you and tell you that you were wrong and you still wouldn’t believe it. Then go and say it was US mind control technology or something….

          • Jason

            More sophistry: “it is very evident you have no interest in being convinced”.

            Not amusing.

          • Not Mark

            soph·is·try (sŏf′ĭ-strē)
            n. pl. soph·is·tries
            1. Plausible but fallacious argumentation.
            2. A plausible but misleading or fallacious argument.

            Jason, I am quite sure that what I have claimed about you is not fallacious or misleading. I genuinely believe you cannot be convinced to change your view. I know I will not change my view unless I see clear and convincing evidence that I was incorrect and there is nothing wrong with that. Andrew at least can put together a coherent and convincing argument. Where have you ever done this? Can we stop with the personal attacks now and get back on topic?

          • Jason

            One can reasonably point out that an argument is fallacious without being obliged to present a counter-argument.

            I don’t need to know how MH17 was destroyed to point out that a particular line of reasoning is illogical.

          • Jason

            Logic has nothing to do with what one believes or whether one is convinced. People “know,” “believe” and are “convinced” by all sorts of nonsense and flat-out lies.

            Sophistry is about who “wins the argument” or “convinces people.”
            We are talking matters that involve huge loss of life. It’s not a high school debate. What we need is real evidence, not “convincing” images.

          • Not Mark

            Jason, just exactly what is your definition of *real* evidence? Any evidence ANYBODY comes up with can be dismissed. So, what pray tell, would you consider incontrovertible proof of who did this?

          • Jason

            Investigation of an air crash BEGINS with direct professional analysis of the physical evidence of the aircraft, flight recorder, autopsies, ATC data, satellite data.

            Instead we’ve had endless streams of accusation and speculation from all sides, including this site.

            Eliot and Bellingcat produce some very interesting accusations and speculations, but there is absolutely NOTHING on this site that stands as real evidence, in my opinion.

            This whole you-can-do-it-yourself thing is silly. I do appreciate Bellingcat for the creativity of its speculations. But I don’t view it as anything more than that. I find zero “proof” here.

          • Not Mark

            Jason, if this website isn’t “meeting your needs” then why do you stick around? I wouldn’t waste hours of my time hanging around a place that I don’t believe in. Why do you? Surely you don’t think you can sway someone’s opinion here? I gave up on those aspirations very quickly. I don’t go on the comments section at rt.com because I don’t agree with those people and it would be futile for me to try and convince them of my opinion. Surely, this is the same situation you find yourself in here?

        • Peter Hermann

          I’m afraid you will have to wait for the final DSB report for all your questions.

          Reply
        • tourist

          These are very interest thoughts. But as far as I have read, the BUK system consists of three units, of which one is the launcher with the rockets, the two others are a radar system vehicle and a command control base vehicle. Bellingcat only located the launcher in Snizhne. What’s about the other two units? How big is the maximum distance between them to operate together? Could the radar system be placed much more on the north-east, the direction from where MH17 came? What’s then with these arguments?

          Reply
          • Not Mark

            Please read the last couple bellingcat articles and comments for them. You will see that we have already discussed the fact that the auxiliary components of the Buk system are not necessary for operations. The TELAR is capable of operating independently. There is a lot of info found here: http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-9K37-Buk.html

        • PatSinc

          To add to your analysis – as per your numbering:
          1. I have taken as the point of impact the location the Almaz team determined. From Snizhne to that point is ca. 17.5km.
          2. I concur.
          3. If the trajectory is assumed to be linear the distance the missile travelled would be 20km. The trajectory wasn’t linear, but the trajectory diagrams provided by Almaz indicate that the extra distance would be small (under 3km). I don’t know what flight time the missile would have with the figures I’ve measured/ calculated. I doubt it would be more than 30 seconds, but perhaps somebody with a detailed knowledge could check.
          4. I agree with the calculation, but get 7.5km with my estimated flight time.
          5. Generally, I agree but adding these components gives me a horizontal range at firing of 30.5km. (17.5km to pt. of impact + 7.5km + 5.5km).
          6. This is 11km within the TELAR range.
          7. OK
          8. Agreed. However, using the data supplied by Almaz for their missile speed, angles of detonation and velocity of shrapnel (~2400m/s), the forward angle of the shrapnel cloud would be 51 degrees from the axis of the missile. I would also note that the size of the missile fragments was about that of a fingernail and I’m not convinced that such light fragments (these are lighter and less aerodynamic than a standard bullet) would exit the opposite side of a 6m wide airliner after hitting reinforced windscreens, aircraft skins, ribs and linings, flight deck contents, crew, equipment etc.
          Throughout the Almaz presentation, the angle of the shrapnel cloud shown where the missile was shown near the plane was considerably narrower than the 56 degrees and the relative velocities of the shrapnel cloud and aeroplane (10:1) didn’t look convincing. I was also confused as to how Novikov proposed to do a physical re-enactment of the incident, if he didn’t have that type of missile. I am also at a loss to understand how it can be possible for the Russian military not to have any of them when we can all see recent photos disproving that, and we have the engineer for Almaz stating that he “has seen many launches” of this type of Buk in the Astrakhan region.
          As I understand it, the sighting of a separatist BUK in Snizhne was of a moving launcher on the road the same day (I may well be wrong), so that wouldn’t imply that Snizhne was actually the launch site. However, the above doesn’t preclude that possibility.
          I’d be interested if anyone would like to attempt a coherent explanation of what
          set of circumstances could possibly explain the Ukrainian military deploying a relatively long-range Buk launcher right on their front line to counter the threat of the entirely non-existent separatist air power and then firing on an unidentified aircraft approaching from their own side. In a conflict where I was on the only side with any combat aircraft, if an unidentified plane approached my position from the direction of my home at high altitude, the overwhelming probability is that such a plane is not a threat so there would be no plausible reason for an Ukrainian crew to fire on it.

          Reply
          • Adam

            This is just a speculation but it just might make some sense. Ukraine incessantly talked about Russian invasion and in my opinion believed that it would sooner or later happen. If that’s the case then it would make sense that air defense was a crucial part of their war preparations. Sounds like a good reason to dispatch air defense units to the east of the country where the anticipated attack could come from.

          • Andrew

            PatSinc:

            “I’d be interested if anyone would like to attempt a coherent explanation of what
            set of circumstances could possibly explain the Ukrainian military deploying a relatively long-range Buk launcher right on their front line to counter the threat of the entirely non-existent separatist air power and then firing on an unidentified aircraft approaching from their own side.”

            Well, Bellingcat did post pictures of them above – its acknowledged they really did deploy them.

            It was stated at the time the 156th Air Defense unit was conducting Air Defense training exercises. This may or may not have been related to NATO Operation Breeze taking place offshore in the Black Sea at the same time.

            Part of the reasoning behind this may have also been the Ukrainian claim that a Russian aircraft violated Ukrainian air space a day earlier and shot down on of their planes with an air-to-air missile on July 16, and also claimed Russia carried out the aerial attack on Snizhne on July 15.

            http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/18/world/europe/ukraine-says-russian-plane-shot-down-its-fighter-jet.html?_r=0

            Siberian Air 1812 was also shot down during Air Defense exercises. Iranian Air 655 was shot down during a military engagement due to Fog of War circumstances. Stuff happens. That is the danger of war.

          • Not Mark

            Andrew, I think I am slowly coming to the conclusion that maybe the ones who are really responsible here are the ones who recklessly decided it was okay to fly over an active war zone. Let me posit this hypothetical situation:

            Say I walk into a known bad area of town. Lots of drugs, robbery, prostitution, etc. I am familiar with the area because I hear about it on the news and I know full well the risks that something bad might happen to me if I go there, yet I go there anyway. I am walking down an alleyway and suddenly a drug deal gone bad erupts into a shootout and a stray bullet strikes me.

            Now we can say the person that did the shooting is the guilty one and indeed they would be tried and imprisoned BUT can I say that I wasn’t at least partially to blame for accepting the risk as acceptable beforehand? I am not saying we should blame the victims (those who died) but perhaps at least some of the world’s ire should lay on those that decided what path the aircraft would take to get to its destination? This is war and war is a dangerous thing. Civilians get bombed in their houses and no one seems to blink an eye and hold those responsible accountable because they should have left or some inane reason like that. But this plane gets shot down and the world is on a witch hunt. Just my rambling thoughts before I go to bed. Be safe everyone!

          • Andrew

            Not Mark:

            Donbass held a self-organized independence referendum in May of 2014, but this was refused recognition by (1) Ukraine, (2) the UN, (3) the vast majority of countries of any sort in the world., (4) even Russia.

            This means that Ukraine continued to claim sovereignty over Donetsk and Lugansk regardless of the expressed will of their people and the whole world backed them in this position.

            A sovereign government under international air treaties is required to provide safe air space for the passage of planes on overflight or to categorically close that air space to commercial flights if it cannot do so. The only way Ukraine could have avoided this would to have been to recognize the sovereignty of Donbass, which would have shifted the onus of safety onto the rebels.

            At the time MH17 was shot down we have the following circumstances:
            1) Ukraine was undertaking aerial combat operations against insurrectionists armed with surface to air missiles who had successfully downed a variety of military aricraft at various altitudes.
            2) Ukraine was deploying anti-air weapons into the theater of war (Ukrain’e BUK’s, S-200’s, and S-300’s) and at the very least undertaking training exercises with these weapons. In the recent past, the Ukrainian military had accidentally shot down a plane this way.
            3) Ukraine was claiming Russia was violating its airspace by conducting aerial combat operations over Ukraine, engaging in air-to-air combat, and firing surface to air missiles at aerial targets.
            4) The rebel insurrectionists claimed to have captured at least one BUK (a claim the Ukrainian government felt was serious enough it actually addressed it in a formal manner) and were clearly seen operating other dangerous SAM systems like the Strela as well as MANPADS.

            Into this dangerous and caustic brew of war, Ukraine’s government felt that it was okay to continue to allow civilian overlfight despite international experience (Siberian 1812, Iranian Air 655, etc.) showing this was a very bad idea.

            If this were being tried under American jurisprudence, even if it were shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Russian state supplied a BUK system to the rebels which then downed MH17, Ukraine would share in the liability of the wreck for not having closed its airspace despite knowing the dangers present and because it is actually responsible for causing some of the dangers to be present by choosing to conduct aerial combat operations.

            This is just me thinking out loud here, but it would seem that an international protocol is needed that if either (1) aerial combat operations are being undertaken or (2) aircraft are being brough down by surface to air missiles through military combat or (3) SAM weapons systems are actively deployed in a theater, then civilian overflight should be categorically prohibited at all flight levels and that governments that refuse to do so must be held liable for the results. Flying through a aerial combat zone is inherently dangerous because of the potential for attack by mistaken identification, attack by stray missiles, and entering an extremely dangerous flight level due to an inflight emergency forcing a reduction in altitude.

          • Not Mark

            Andrew, Thank you for sharing your point of view on how this event can be interpreted. I must say, you are the first commenter I have seen that held a dissenting opinion on this website that has presented a reasonable argument that explains why the Ukrainians were (at least partially) responsible. I will try and look at all this conflicting evidence with your “lens” and see if I come to a different conclusion. Take care.

        • boggled

          Just a small relevant fact regarding missiles and could be shown by the Siberian Airline’s flight 1812.
          Some missiles, maybe all have an acquisition radar of their own when they get close.
          So a spotter in the planes flight path as opposed to the Telar could tell them to launch a missile at such and the missile could technically find its own target after launch.
          It is reported in the Wikipedia article that Siberian Airlines was destroyed some 250 KM away from Crimea where two missiles were launched, one from an S-300 complex and one from a S-200 complex.
          One hit the drone and the other carried on.
          At 250 KM, I believe both were out of their respective control radar on the grounds range.
          So while we go round the Mulberry bush about whether or not the BUK missing a missile in the video is the actual one that destroyed MH17, it could have been launched from inside Russia just as easily.
          A question to be asked about distances would be how far it can travel on its fuel payload and how long it can remain aloft searching for a target.
          I am guessing it is more then 42 KM, but others would have to confirm the burn time and the actual moment the missile would die at.
          And how large a picture or target it needs for its own acquisition radar., what is its cone of acquisition?
          And how much free play there is in timing for it by itself to acquire a target flying at it at 500 mph or more with a tailwind.
          Can you press a button, and avoid all the other friend or foe measures and other controls?
          Can you just launch it in the general direction, and it will seek its own target?
          From the destruction of Siberian Airlines Flight 1812, it appears you can.

          Reply
          • boggled

            One other point which I noticed in other blogs disputing the recent Defense Expert from Russia, is that when the missile’s acquisition radar and proximity fuse become active, they look at their target, and if it was coming from a perpendicular direction, the missile would target and arm itself for the broad section of the plane and detonate near the middle of it, as opposed to the cabin and then the plane flies through the shrapnel.
            I do not claim to be a weapons expert, but this would seem plausible for a large aircraft the missile is trying to bring down in one shot.
            I guess it is all how the engineers designed it, a kill at the cabin or a kill at the wing, engines, fuel cells, and center body of the plane.
            Anyways the explanation sounded plausible, but I am no expert to confirm or deny.
            It was on the MH17 twitter feed a couple days ago.
            I can’t find it in my history, but here are two other articles pointing to that conclusion.
            http://www.novayagazeta.ru/inquests/68376.html
            http://www.whathappenedtoflightmh17.com/the-pressconference-of-almaz-antey-has-two-major-errors/

            Enjoy and discuss.
            Fare thee well.

          • Not Mark

            Jason, I have military experience and Ukraine’s claims seem perfectly reasonable to me. First of all, we can easily tell there were no Ukrainian military aircraft in the area because Kiev ATC made no mention of this. Russia claimed their ATC radar was tracking a fighter aircraft but this is widely thought to be a misinterpretation by the russians and is likely debris from after the aircraft exploded. And IF there were aircraft in the area they would have been at least 3,000 meters below MH-17 as the service ceiling of a Su-25 is 7,000 and at that altitude the aircraft is pretty useless for any kind of precision attack on the ground. Additionally, I doubt Kiev would purposefully go toe to toe with russian MIGs. They would not stand a chance. Since you guys call on the US to release its data constantly, I call on russia to release its ATC radar RAW data. If their radar was powerful enough to register pieces of aircraft falling then there is a chance it recorded the missile’s flight path. Analyzing the RAW data produced by the primary radar could provide invaluable data about the event. I doubt we will ever see this though.

            As for the Buk deployment:
            The Buk is used to provide protection of tactical assets (tanks, howitzers, APCs, etc). Why on earth would the Ukrainians deploy this thing right on the very front lines only KM from enemy forces? What would they possibly have been protecting with it out there? I can think of no logical reason for this device to be located where it was unless the Ukrainians had absolutely no idea what they were doing. Throughout the entire campaign I can think of no time they ever suffered from an airborne attack against their ground targets. Then to top it all off, why was it pointed backwards towards their own territory? How much sense does that really make? In my mind the conclusion is a simple one to make: either the Ukrainians are the most incompetent fighting force on the planet or russian backed rebels did it. It is really that simple.

        • Jason

          Based on Kiev’s claim that their aircraft had been shot down by Russian aircraft, and their repeated claim that Russian had invaded, it would be gross military negligence for them to not have full Buk missile systems with active radar in the area to protect themselves.

          Anyone with military experience recognizes that Ukraine’s claim that it had no Buks or aircraft flying in the area on July 16 is ridiculous on its face. Their leadership is not that inept.

          Reply
          • PatSinc

            That’s an interesting opinion, but it only makes any sense if Russian air force jets were ACTUALLY operating well inside Ukraine at or prior to that time. Certainly the Russians deny that and I don’t think any source other than Kiev has suggested this.
            On the other hand, we do know that a number of Ukrainian military aircraft had been shot down around this time, that the rebels were armed with anti-aircraft missiles including Buks, and that they had good reason to fear aerial attack.

          • Not Mark

            Am I correct in my recollection that MH-17 was on a heading straight towards the supposed Buk site?

    • PatSinc

      It’s not clear that Almaz-Antey’s conclusions are science at all. Until their paper is openly published along with all the data and clear explanations of the methodology, it is impossible to either confirm or refute their conclusions.
      I have doubts about the Almaz presentation. The trajectories of the shrapnel particles look inconsistent to me and given the point of detonation being almost in contact with the cockpit, to model the cloud of particles as a toroidal shape expanding disproportionately slowly is peculiar. Given what the Almaz engineer told us about velocities, by the time the Boeing’s wings would have passed the point of detonation, the toroidal cloud of particles would have been over 200 metres away, thereby clearing the left wing altogether. The trajectory lines on the slides we saw don’t all seem consistent, and it is unclear to me that projectiles could have hit the port engine from that position, given the data we were supplied on velocities and relative angles of shrapnel, missile and plane. There was no three dimensional analysis done to account for the observed damage to the left-hand side beyond the flight deck area, and I can not be sure that there would be a direct path from the supposed point of detonation (above and very close to the nose) to the engine (below the wing).

      You raise an interesting point about the radar range, although Almaz-Antey didn’t raise that as a possible objection to a Snizhne launch site, so I assume they consider it to be a plausible range to have detected and fired from.

      Reply
      • Jason

        I believe whole point of being “independent investigative citizen journalists” is to investigate the subject using a high standard of journalistic integrity.

        If “open source” is found to be inadequate, why stick to it exclusively?

        And why is it always you who answers, Not Mark?

        Reply
        • PatSinc

          Well Jason,
          Let’s give Not Mark a break.
          Who has found “open source” to be inadequate? In this case, multiple open sources suggested and corroborated each other in the view that a BUK missile shot down this plane. Meanwhile the Russian ministry of defence was still promoting a ridiculous claim that the Ukrainian pilot of a ground attack Su25 shot it down. The details of how this quite frankly impossible feat were supposed to happened are so totally self-contradictory and absurd that one can only assume the Russian officials responsible are entirely divorced from reality. Months later, the manufacturer tells us that it was indeed their missile. Russian state media reported that this is a type that Russia no longer possesses despite multiple open sources showing this to be untrue, and the manufacturers implying that they have access to such missiles.
          So, as far as plausibility, honesty and verifiable data goes, so far “open sources” are far more credible than the Russian or Ukrainian government and associated entities.

          Reply
    • Jason

      Andrew points to the deficiency of the “open source” analysis currently used by the Bellingcat journalists.

      IMHO, the Bellingcat MH17 Investigation Team need to recruit some engineers who can analyze the physical evidence using math and science.

      All the “social media forensics” and “geolocation” in the world is useless if it does not address physical reality.

      There’s a limit to what unskilled, non-professional “citizen journalists” can reasonably claim with photos, etc. Unbiased professional scientists are what is needed.

      Reply
      • Not Mark

        The whole point of Bellincat’s founding is that it uses “open source” information in its investigations. Hiring experts and physicist to perform analysis is not really what I would consider “open source”.

        Reply
        • Andrew

          Well, I’m an engineer, you haven’t hired me (am I open source enough?), and I just pointed out some basic physical dynamics of the issue at hand that are a potential flaw in the theories being made that because there is a picture of a BUK controlled by rebels driving down a road in Snizhene, THEREFORE it was the weapon that shotdown MH17. The conclusion obviously doesn’t follow necessarily from the pictures.

          I have no problem accepting that the rebels had one or more BUK’s (I have pointed out that Sergei Kurginyan of Russia implied they had more than one and stated clearly they were captured BUK’s, which would have been from the 156th Air Defense unit of Ukraine at base A-1425 in Donetsk as posted by the rebels on Twitter).

          I’ve also noted that Ukraine had BUK’s deployed into the theater at the time MH17 that were filmed by Ukrainian TV and which Bellingcat helpfully linked to above and which the Russian MOD has claimed were arrayed across Donbass in multiple locations (the TV program seems to show at least two different locations).

          I also note Ukraine has previously shot down a civilian plane by accident (Siberian 1812), so it would not be out of the question for that to happen again.

          The supply of weaponry to the rebels is far more complex than just “the Russian Army gives them stuff by driving it over the border at Krasnodon.” Its pretty clear they buy material from corrupt Ukrainian sources (especially in exchange for illegally mined coal), capture/repair material from the Ukrainian Army, and receive “plausibly deniable” material from various sources in Russia from, most likely via Crimea, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia, with the term for it being “Voentorg”, meaning military surplus store. The partial staffing of the rebels by Russian soldiers is termed “The North Wind”. I’m surprised you don’t seem to refer to those terms at all. The Russian internet partisans certainly do. None of that is in any way controverisal in terms of being in dispute. You don’t need open source investigations to figure that out. You can just go and read Colonel Cassad.

          Reply
          • Jason

            The whole “rebel leader boasted…” bit has long since been debunked. Can’t believe you dragged that bit of irrelevance back in here. How about let’s stay on topic about the missile.

          • Andrew

            Not Mark:

            Do you really think the person who pushed the button in the BUK then turned around and made posts on vKontakte using his cellphone? Really?

            If not, then you have one person pushing a button, and another person somewhere else seeing (or hearing about) results without even knowing what happened or how and attributing them to his “team”. There is an obvious disconnect between the person posting not having full information of the events, and the person pushing the button keeping his mouth shut and fingers otherwise disengaged.

            In other words, this isn’t real legal evidence – its hearsay.

            Think about it this way. Imagine a mugger shoots an abortion doctor in broad daylight on a city street outside his clinic while he is going to lunch because he wouldn’t hand over his wallet. Word quickly spreads of the shooting via texts and social media from witnesses – “an abortion doctor has been killed in front of his clinc”. An anti-abortion activist hears the doctor has been shot, assumes an anti-abortion doctor killer did it, and puts up on the internet a celebratory post – “boy he had it coming – we go another one – way to go boys” type of thing taking credit for the killing by violent anti-abortion extremists. His incorrect celebration of what he thinks happened doesn’t mean the mugger didn’t do it.

            If an uninvolved rebel sees a plane crash and posts “hey, we got another AN-26 – good job – told you this would happen”, he is merely extrapolating by wishful thinking that because a plane crashed (a) it must have been military, and (b) it was “us” shooting it down because in his experience, who else would be?

            Without knowing who made the post and where they were and what knowledge they actually had, such evidence is worthless. Especially seeing as the poster thought it was a transport plane and clearly it was not, so he obviously had no idea what he was actually posting about beyond being in receipt of a picture.

            This is what is called “The Fog of War”.

          • Vlad the impaler

            “because there is a picture of a BUK controlled by rebels driving down a road in Snizhene, THEREFORE it was the weapon that shotdown MH17. The conclusion obviously doesn’t follow necessarily from the pictures.”

            I think you understate the case. There are pictures of the same Buk missile system travelling back in the direction of the Russian border, taken later on that day, minus a missile. Which implies it was shot. That same day. Presumably at an aircraft. Coincidence?

          • Not Mark

            Andrew thank you again for putting thought into your responses. Once again, you have valid points. I made no claims regarding the links you are talking about. I think the point I was trying to make by posting them is that this is a complicated situation and it is easy for someone to develop a cognitive bias and neglect to look at these pieces of “evidence” and figure them into the equation. I admit that I have a very obvious stance on this issue. Anyone can go and read my likely hundreds of comments and see where I stand on this issue. When I personally try and add up ALL the “evidence” that I have come across my *personal* result is that the culprit is very clearly russian backed rebel/separatists/green men or whatever you want to call them. I think the great thing about this place is that if you are courteous and post constructive comments you can come and discuss these articles and posit different conclusions that can be made from them. In short, there is a lot of contradictory information out there and people should look at ALL of it then they can apply their personal biases to come to their own conclusion. The fact is, there can only be one guilty party and the conclusions we draw in this forum have no basis on who is determined to be guilty. So really, all we are doing here is having a meaningless conversation and wasting our time if you really think about it. 🙂
            Take care everyone.

    • Jason

      The discussion of Siberian Airlines Flight 1812 further implicates the Ukrainians, who were responsible for killing 78 people, mostly Israelis. Bringing that 2001 tragic incident into the conversation simply means that more Ukrainian Buk system complexes stationed in the eastern Ukraine were capable of destroying MH-17. This whole track of discussion actually makes matters worse, not better, for the Ukrainian side.

      Reply
      • Not Mark

        And USSR shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 and US shot down Iran Air 655. I don’t think these countries past actions should necessarily influence how current evidence is evaluated. Do you? Additionally, Siberian Airlines 1812 was clearly an accident that occurred during missile training drills. There would have been no reason whatsoever for the Ukrainians to intentionally shoot down any aircraft in that area. An area that covered the entire range of the missiles should have been no fly zones and that would not have happened. The shooting down of MH-17 took place during entirely different circumstances.

        Reply
      • Jason

        Agreed. So why has Siberian Airlines Flight 1812 been brought up in the comments, unless it is to make the Ukrainians look worse than they already do?

        Reply
        • Not Mark

          Flight 1812 was first brought up as an example of how an anti-aircraft missile can accidentally shoot down a passenger plane as a consequence of the missile’s design. I am not sure there was any other point to bring it up besides that. I don’t think Andrew was trying to make the Ukrainians “look worse”. I think he was just stating that its one of the many possibilities that may have happened because it has happened at least once before. Andrew can better answer that question though.

          Reply
          • Andrew

            Siberian Air 1812 was shot down during anti-aircraft missile exercises.

            Allegedly, Ukraine was holding similar exercises on July 14-17 in Donbass, hence their mass deployment of BUK’s.

            I will say looking over the results of a year of fighting that the Ukrainian armed forces appear to be extremely poorly funded and trained, so it would not seem out of the realm of possibility that another accident happened.

            This is basically the same premise as the rebel shootdown theory – the poorly trained rebels are given a sophisticated weapon and their first time using it they promptly shootdown a civilian airliner by accident.

            I reject completely any theory that the regular Ukrainian Army or the rebels purposefully shot down a civilian plane – they do not seem like barbarians when I watch them on video. So its either an accident or something sinister.

          • Not Mark

            It does not really make sense to me for them (Ukrainians) to be doing training so close to the front lines. I think typically training (for US military, at least) is done in places where you don’t have to worry about being killed at any moment. The threat of imminent death would distract me from the learning process, but I might just be a wimp. Just my thoughts though…

      • Jason

        Following this line of logic, Ukrainian Buk systems were equally susceptible to “accidents” and there were many more of them on the scene that day.

        There are multiple, equally reasonable theories about what happened to MH17. Bellingcat focuses on one line of speculation and evidence only. I think that’s fine to do, but it is what prompts the view that these investigations are not “independent citizen journalism” in any way.

        Reply
        • Not Mark

          What line of speculation and evidence would you have them follow? There is only one truth here. This is not russia where they put out ten different half-assed theories then only stick with them as long as nobody contests it. What are these guys supposed to investigate? Some unsubstantiated/unlikely theory? How would you have them look into the Su-25 shoot down theory, for example?

          Reply
  5. Vlad the impaler

    What possible reason could the Russian government-owned manufacturer of Buk missiles have supporting of the Russian government line on what happened? When has the Russian Government ever been caught telling a lie? Well, apart from the one about the troops without insignia or military number plates in Crimea not being Russian troops, which Mr “I cannot tell a lie” Putin later himself owned up to. Or the one about the crucified baby. Or the one about 10 year old girl dying of shelling in Donetsk on the day there was no shelling. Or the one about MH17 being instructed to change course to fly above Donetsk. Or the doctored photos published at the Russian Ministry of Defense news conference after the downing of MH17. Or the one about Russian troops preferring to take their summer holiday in Ukraine (together with their tanks) because they don’t want to go back to their families. But apart from that I would believe everything coming out of the Russian Military-Industrial complex. Every word.

    Reply
    • Jean De Sarlat (@Jsarlat)

      You forgot the Russian “absolute truth” about a Ukrainian Su jet shooting down MH17. What took Almay-Antey so long to admit it was a Buk M1 missile that shot down the plane?? Russia still has millions of Mosin-Nagant rifles from the 1920’s and 30’s, 40’s stockpiled in storage in perfect working order along with Russian ammo from the40’s, 50’s and 60’s. I bought three rifles a few years ago and the ammo. I Fire the weapons at the range all the time, they work great and would easily kill a bear. Why in the world would anyone think, let alone believe Russia does not have these Buk’s by the thousands??? They made them until the late 90’s and did not fire them all . I have Russian purchased WWII armaments munitions to prove my point.

      Reply
      • Not Mark

        You are correct here. I have no idea why they would have insinuated that they have none of these missiles and therefore must have been the Ukrainian’s doing. They shot themselves in the foot by saying this. They should have just said “it was a Buk M1” and left it at that. It would have supported their claim that the current Almaz is not legally responsible for weapons produced before they were restructured and it would have made it a less politically motivated presentation. I guess they will never learn…

        Reply
  6. Rafael

    This is another Putin news propaganda. How many Ukraine helicopters and fighter jets had been downed? Way too many. How many Russian’s fighter jets has been downed? Zero. Because Russian and rebels have more advanced weapons and they have been using them. Putler will not last!

    Reply
  7. Jason

    When people ask questions directly to Eliot or the Bellingcat Investigation Team, why are there almost no direct answers coming from Bellingcat here in the comments?

    It would be helpful if Bellingcat Investigation Team responses were clearly identified as such.

    If a person has a specific question for Bellingcat, then they are not seeking the opinion of a fellow commenter. Other people’s opinions are fine, just not what’s been asked for.

    The current method is frustrating for me personally. There’s no obvious way to tell who is who. It’s confusing, to say the least.

    Some really good questions for Bellingcat seem to be getting passed over, or buried by opinions from commenters who aren’t part of the Bellingcat Team.

    Reply
    • Not Mark

      Do you expect these guys to sort through THOUSANDS of comments and respond to each one personally? Be realistic now. Does rt.com, or any other website for that matter, respond to people’s comments personally? I would say it probably happens but very rarely. I suspect these guys are busy doing investigations and not reading comments all day long like me.

      Reply
    • Jason

      No, frankly, I’m not seeing thousands of comments here. But whenever someone asks a question there’s a reply from you, Not Mark. What’s up with that?

      Reply
      • Jason

        Not Mark, I’ve shared that article, including the comments section, with ten of my friends and colleagues who are all following the journalism on MH-17. I am the person who introduced them to Bellingcat as an information resource.

        The people I shared that article with all had the impression that you, and certain other commenters here, were “running interference” and “answering for Bellincat”. It was something of an embarrassment for me since I had introduced them to this site.

        Admittedly, this was a small sample of new readers, and certainly I mean no personal offense to you. But the overall impression of these people was a decrease in trust of the Bellingcat site, not an increase.

        Simply stated, you guys are not helping the cause of building trust in Bellingcat.

        There’s already too much NATO-loving and Putin-hating non-intelligence in the comments section for many rational people to stomach for very long.

        Reply
        • Not Mark

          I can see how you come to that conclusion and I take no offence. I will keep this in mind and only comment on things that I cannot bear not to comment on. Like I’ve said, this has become an obsession of sorts. Thanks!

          Reply
          • Slavik

            I guess that is trolling and jason and andrew do it in best interests of Russian Federation, don buy on this stuff, I hear all their agruments in Russia, they are the same and not new.
            So dont allow to be trolled.

  8. FarEast

    Does anyone notice the obvious fact that Ukrainian BUKs all have their numbers out in the open. That makes for logical conclusion – if identifying numbers are concealed we’re talking russian BUK here.

    Reply
  9. CC

    As a technically-oriented layman, I found the Almaz-Antey presentation pretty understandable. Comparing the airframe damage pattern with the warhead shrapnel pattern should give a good estimate of the position and attitude of the missile when it exploded. The DSB can continue this method with additional airframe components. The actual shrapnel pattern could be measured in a ground test which Almaz-Antey has offered to perform.

    The presentation seemed a bit simplified, however, in connecting the missile attitude, as estimated, with a launch location. They describe the missile making an ideal straight-trajectory approach, which is what you would expect if the targeting, launch, initial guidance, and homing guidance are all “on spec”. However it seems to me that any deviations from an ideal launch would result in the missile following a different path and using the homing guidance system to steer to impact once it reaches the homing-guidance stage of flight. According to the writeup (no source given) at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSXMhaFntrU , the 9M28M1 (sic) missile can pull 23g acceleration; also see the exhaust trail ~2:30 into that clip.

    So physically it seems quite possible for the missile to maneuver, making a final approach to the aircraft at a substantially different angle than the sightline to the launcher. Maybe there is an obvious reason that this can be ruled out, but I didn’t hear it mentioned in the Almaz-Antey presentation.

    Reply
    • Not Mark

      CC, I agree with your assessment here. Unless Almaz is leaving something out, I am not too sure one can simply assume the missile took a straight ballistic path as an artillery round would. Given what I know about these missiles, the missile may make several erroneous maneuvers during its transit towards the aircraft which may have had an effect on its attitude in relation to the aircraft immediately prior to detonation. When the missile transitions from semi-active radar homing to active radar homing I am not sure that the same exact location on such a large aircraft would be locked onto and this may have an influence on the missiles last second maneuvers if it locked onto the left engine fan blades, for example. I think my point is best illustrated by this video of an M1 launch. https://youtu.be/LSXMhaFntrU?t=143 A few seconds after this video should start playing you will see the missile trail on the right side that looks like it is going straight up. You will notice that it makes a rather agressive right turn a few seconds before it hits its target. What do you guys think?

      Reply
    • Not Mark

      It seems the Patriot missile system behaves in a similar manner to the Buk in that it dramatically changes heading several times during its flight. I can’t see how anyone would be able to trace its flight back to its launch point by knowing its attitude during detonation. Anyone have any ideas?

      Reply
      • boggled

        A few thoughts to an interesting point you raise, Not Mark.
        A few people have the needed frequencies and monitor those connected with the command and control of the missile after its launch, I would imagine.
        First, were any found? Or did the missile just have a button pushed and it launched and acquired MH17 by itself and adjusted its flight path accordingly?

        Second, if one’s were found, did they tap into the LARGER Ukrainian network of radar? OR the Russians, since they have been broadcasting and covering that region because it is important to them and they planned on connecting that BUK and others to its network to help separatist take down Ukrainian aircraft and helicoptors?

        Was it just the command and control unit surrounding the BUK that launched, or tapped into a broader network?
        Was there an identifying marker or signature if it utilized a larger network?
        So that if three BUK launchers were bunched together and had three different targets, hypothetically, they would not get confused and all target the same target or some other conflagration.

        One could almost guarantee that Russia and Ukraine had some observation network set up since both had BUKs in the Central and Eastern region.
        Without command decision being sent to it from a network it was linked to, I doubt the flight path can be determined from the attitude of the missile when it exploded, or its fragmentation dispersal.

        With the absence of a communication of missile to base unit, one MIGHT be able to consider a general ballistic flight path based on fragmentation probably. Though with the missile itself making a few minor corrections due to wind, target speed, size of target, and what is in the targeting software itself, ie if it was designed for the destruction of large airplanes, it would have a recognition that would tell it is not attacking a maneuverable fighter jet and what part of the jet to target.

        Another point I would make is that I read most of the targets that Almay tested were static targets, I heard, and their were only 39 tests done with that missile.
        Hardly enough to cover all the bases I think, but who knows.
        Of course I think with the sophistication of computers today, we can pretty much get an idea of the orientation of the missile when it blew up, which the Almay group tried to point out with their analysis.
        I tend to doubt their viewpoint that the missile was almost vertical in orientation when it blew up.
        It may be one explanation of the shrapnel damage on MH17, but I do not believe it is the only one.
        If a warhead is shaped like a cylinder, common sense would tell you that its dispersal would be in the shape of two cones with their points touching, unless the warhead had two detonators or more.
        Which would mean multiple possibilities of matching shrapnel damage.
        If the missile and MH17 were going at each other head on, and MH17 flew threw the shrapnel at 500 mph that explode 60 meters away, might look totally different dispersal pattern then one that exploded 10 meters away from the cabin.

        I am sure JIT is looking through all of this as well and scientists fortunately have sophisticated tools to do that analysis and create models.
        And to think, they did a lot of that analysis by math, graph paper, and pencil in the 70s.
        Today we can get closer to the nuts and bolts of the answer, which will be good, because it will make the judgement all that more conclusive as you can put together various theories in your analysis and be able to throw out the bad ones with pretty firm certainty.
        Sorry for being long winded,
        Good job and keep up the work of keeping the debate going.
        Debate and analysis and inspection of evidence are part of coming to a conclusion, and yes, sometimes you have to change preconceived ideas to protect innocents and get the real guilty party.
        It is obvious this has a lot of factors and JIT has a large job, thanks to the crew at Bellingcat, and ALL of the commentators for working to search for a truth.
        Every argument or theory needs a counterpoint or devil’s advocate, and it is good to see many here are trying to keep this as civil as possible in a situation that will result in the guilty party having a civil lawsuit above a trillion USD and could mean bankruptcy for either among other consequences.
        Fare thee well

        Reply
        • Not Mark

          boggled, you have many interesting points here. Unfortunately I cannot speak about the specifics of the Buk intersystem data-link. I have no idea what its topology looks like or the kind of protocols it uses. I would hope it had at least some kind of encryption or frequency hopping lest someone intercept command signals and cause a bunch of unwanted actions (launching all missiles at nothing for example). Additionally, I do not know why the two missiles (Buk and Patriot), that I demonstrated in those video links, take the flight path that the do (Fly in seemingly random direction then make abrupt maneuvers to hit the target). As far as the rest of your comment goes, I am afraid I am not qualified to speak intelligently about blast paterns and explosion dynamics. Sometimes things that we might think are common sense are actually anything but. Thanks for your thoughts.

          Reply
      • CC

        @Not Mark the Patriot video cited (according to some of the comments) was probably pursuing a test target that was performing evasive maneuvers. In such a situation the final missile attitude will clearly have nothing to do with launch position. The situation is less clear when the target MH17 is proceeding approximately straight ahead at constant speed.

        Some analysts have conjectured that Buk launch crew may have misinterpreted incoming radar blip as slower-moving AN-26 at lower altitude. If initial targeting computations were based on this assumption I would think missile would be aimed to intercept farther downrange at lower altitude and would have to correct by turning slightly back and up. Not sure whether this could be simulated by experts with any accuracy or remains only a layman’s speculation.

        Reply

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