the home of online investigations

You can support the work of Bellingcat by donating through the following link:

The Lost Digit: Buk 3×2

May 3, 2016

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

Translations: Русский


Full report: (EN)  stock_save_pdf    (RU)  stock_save_pdf    (DE)  stock_save_pdf

In November 2014, Bellingcat published a report that identified the Buk TELAR (missile launcher) that downed Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 as “Buk 3×2,” originating from Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade of Kursk. The Buk was called 3×2 due to an obscured middle digit, which was not identifiable at the time of the report’s publication.


Left: Paris Match photo Right: Buk 3×2 in June convoy


The missing digit

In a new report, we positively identify the middle digit of this Buk by matching seven characteristic features on Buk 3×2, including a unique dent on a side panel, the white marks on the chassis, and the cable arrangement connecting to the missile erector.

Features on Buk 3x2 that will be compared

Features on Buk 3×2 that will be compared

The middle digit is a three, thus identifying the number of the Buk that downed MH17 as “332” before the middle digit was obscured. In this new investigation, members of the Bellingcat investigation team collected and analyzed dozens of photographs of Buk TELARs that have been posted online by members of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade since 2010.


Buk TELARs 312, 322, and 332

The full report gives details on the process in determining that these three TELARs were the only possible candidates for identification. After comparing the seven unique features, Buk 332 was the only TELAR that had even one of these features in common with Buk 3×2 from materials recorded in Russia in June 2014 and eastern Ukraine on July 17 and 18, 2014. The seven examined features were: side skirt profile, wheel type (combination of hollow wheels and spoke wheels), dent in the left side panel, arrangement of cable connections to the missile erector, white mark on both side skirts, font and exact spacing of digits, and the shape and size of oil/soot deposits by exhaust

The full report, downloadable here, provides a detailed analysis of each of these seven features. This summary will compare a few of the most conclusive features.

A high-quality photograph of Buk 3×2 taken in Alexeevka, Russia shows an inverted S-shape dent on the left panel.


Clear photographs were available of this same left panel for Buks 312, 322, and 332. A comparison of the three panels below shows that Buk 332 has the identical dent on the panel:

Comparisons of left panel dents on Buks 312, 322, and 332, along with 3x2

Comparisons of left panel dents on Buks 312, 322, and 332, along with 3×2

Another identifier for identifying the correct Buk is by studying the cable connections to the missile erector on the revolving turret. There are four cables on both the left and right side leading to the missile erector, providing us with eight cables to compare.


After studying a number of Buks, it becomes clear that there are different arrangements and lengths to the cables. In the following two figures, the cable connections of Buk 3×2 is compared to the ones of Buks 312, 322, and 332.


Here, on the right side, only Buk 332 shows a similarity to the cable arrangement of Buk 3×2. The blue-marked cable four is connected to the top plug on the turret chassis. Buk 312 and 322 show a different cabling, and cable four is connected to the bottom plug. Also, Buk 312, 322 and 332 show a distinct shape of the cabling, and only the shape of Buk 332 resembles that of the cabling of 3×2.


The comparison on the left side allows only a partial comparison. It is not possible to see the plugs on the turret chassis. However, Buk 332 shows the same distinct spread of the cabling in the middle that is also visible on 3×2.  Nothing comparable is visible on 312 or 322.

Taken individually, none of the seven identifying characteristics allows a definite identification. However, taken in sum, it becomes clear that Buk 332 is the only logical match for Buk 3×2.


Furthermore, comparing the features of Buk 3×2 in Russia and Buk 332 to the available materials of Buk 3×2 in Ukraine (called the “Separatist” Buk below) reveals that these three Buks are actually one in the same.

Many of these features, such as spoke wheels and the H-2200 mark, do not or very rarely appear on Ukrainian Buks. In particular, the Buk TELARs of Ukraine’s 156th Anti-Aircraft Regiment, which was based near Luhansk, Donetsk, and Mariupol in 2014, do not share any visible similarities among the compared characteristics with Buk 3×2, either in Russia or Ukraine. We can say with confidence that on 17 July 2014, the Russian Buk TELAR numbered 332 of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk was filmed and photographed in eastern Ukraine. This specific Buk, previously identified as Buk 3×2, was filmed moving to the center of the launch area estimated by the Dutch Safety Board for the missile that downed MH17.


Credit should be given to various Russian-language online communities for helping to locate some of these materials and provide useful investigative leads. In particular, Bellingcat would like to recognize the efforts of the communities of and for their efforts and keen eyes, particularly regarding the discoveries of the dent in the left panel of Buk 332 and details relating to the road wheels of Buk TELARs.

Bellingcat Investigation Team

The Bellingcat Investigation Team is an award winning group of volunteers and full time investigators who make up the core of the Bellingcat's investigative efforts.

Join the Bellingcat Mailing List:

Enter your email address to receive a weekly digest of Bellingcat posts, links to open source research articles, and more.


  1. John Zenwirt

    “Some NATO country officials, including in Poland, believe that Moscow already has nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad, and will wait to announce that deployment in response to an operational missile defense, or as Moscow’s riposte to (a) NATO meeting.”

    “There will be discussions of how to recreate the infrastructure, dismantled after the Cold War, to move tanks quickly to Poland, which now takes at least a day. The new deployments are a more serious tripwire to deter a war that NATO leaders must now at least contemplate.” (NewYorkTimes)

    • Saturno

      Do you that NATO- US have numerous rockets with nuclear heads in the Netherlands, Germany and other countries, even against the will of European people. Why Russia should not be allowed to keep “dissuasive” nuclear weapons in its territory?

      • Sam

        Against the will of the European people?

        National security secrets are not voted on in the EU or Russia.

        Did you get to vote about the invasion of Crimea?

        I think Europe needs more nukes when I read posts by people like you.

        Russia is a threat to us in Europe, even Finland and Sweden are considering joining NATO because Russia keeps threatening them.

        Putin is stupid, when his actions are causing even the neutral Swedes to consider joining NATO.

        Russia Fail.

        Russia backfire.

        Bully a country into a decision, and they make the opposite decision that you wanted.

        Russia fail.

        • Greg Rabinovich

          Meet “Sam”, a quintessential Ukrainian troll. Poor “Sam” has an axe to grind – out of spite for Russia,, Ukraine is switching from natural gas to firewood.

          • Sam

            Russians are a great people,

            Propagandist like you are not.

            How is that South Stream, Turk Stream, Nord Stream 2, going?

            Ukrainians want to rid their country of corruption, but you work for the Russian corrupt propaganda machine.

    • stranger

      Russia has always been saying that NAT0 anti missile system is targeted against Russia. Everybody laughed and replied: no, it was against Iran. Even though Iran has never had such missiles for delivery and is wrapping up their nucle.r program. Now the masks are uncovered, so that Russia was right.

      • Sam

        Iran never had such missles until Russia sold Iran the technology.

        Kaliningrad is not Russia, please leave.

      • Sam

        stranger, maybe we should just start WW3 now.

        Let’s get it over with

        Putin keeps threatening, might as well start it now.

        Kaliningrad is not Russia.

        • stranger

          “stranger, maybe we should just start WW3 now.”
          Agree, lets call NAT0 headquarters, will tell them that Sam and stranger has already decided everything, that they can start.

          • John Zenwirt

            stranger, What is your specific response to Russia’s breaking treaties, by (secretly!) put atomic bombs in a NON-Russian enclave; that they have no right to occupy…give up your conquered lands, like “Kaliningrad.” First, we had a Cuba crisis, now this.

          • Sam

            Well, Russia is already threatening it, willing to do first strike.

            That’s a sign of a weak Russia.

          • stranger

            John, what is the source of the information that atomic missiles are going to be deployed in Kaliningrad? I believe the deployment of Iskanders was discussed. Iskanders may carry atomic war heads, but may also conventional ones.
            Anyway Russia has more rights to deploy nukes at own territory than for example US to deploy nukes in Germany and all over Europe.
            Iskanders are announced to be a response to NAT0 approaching to Russian borders, and especially the deployment of anti-missiles all over eastern Europe. That is a question of military strategy, or might be also politics, not sure which is more. It is believed that strategic nucle.r weapon should play a deterrent role to guarantee no conventional conflict is possible. In this case the NAT0 anti-missiles in the Eastern Europe over time may be able to intersect all Russian missiles so break up the parity. So Russia is trying to compensate that by pointing local tactical missiles to the possible NAT0 launch positions. Not sure that are atomic ones, but don’t exclude.
            NAT0 is approaching Russian border, not Russia is approaching NAT0, that is like a Caribbean crisis vice verse.
            Russia is never looking to make a first strike for the very simple reason. So far there are no 100% guarantee that all missiles can be intersected, that means whoever launches first, before the first-strike missiles even touch the alien ground, the opposite side missiles will be raised. The massive missile attack would mean the guaranteed destruction of both sides at the same time. That is the deterrence strategy, that is never supposed to use.
            As for Kaliningrad, I’ve never heard that Germany claimed any rights to this territory which became the part of USSR as the result of WW2 and was recognized by the allies. Japanese have been always claiming Kuril islands, that is well known.

          • stranger

            And why Russia is concerned about NAT0 interceptors, anti-missile in the Eastern Europe. One may think that it is a defense and it’s a good thing to be able to destroy all attacking missiles, especially very far from own territory. But the idea is that if NAT0 would be able to intersect all Russian missiles (not now, but most probably over time in several years or decades) then NAT0 theoretically would be able to launch a conventional weapon attack against Russia and Russia would not be able to defend. That is just the question of nucle.r parity and ultimately that is the guarantee for a peace not a war.

      • Sam

        Why do Russia and NATO both say that Russian missles are too advanced for the NATO anti-missle defense?

        Why do Russian propagandists forget that?

        When the Russian government states that the NATO anti-missle defense can’t stop Russian missles, why are the Russian propagandists still whining?

        The besieged fortress paranoia and propaganda?

        • stranger

          May be Russian rockets are too advanced now, but over time NAT0 intersectors may be able to catch them all.
          Who are those interceptors are targeted against? NAT0 is openly announcing Russia as their major enemy now and all maneuvers in the Eastern Europe are to ‘restrain’ Russia from ‘invading Baltics and Poland and Sweden’, why did they forget Finland. Which is weird, because Russia has never threaten Baltics, not talking about farther Eastern European countries. That was just fevered fantasy of Baltics politicians who build their policy starting from imaginary Russian threat.

        • stranger

          “Russian propagandists still whining?” they are not whining, they are deploying tactical missiles targeting NAT0 launch positions in Europe. Why Poland for example wanted more protection from NAT0, but received only the early stage strategic intersectors and became a target for Russian missiles as the result. Then the western press starts whining and paint Russia as an ‘aggressor’. Like 10 years ago I would laugh that NAT0 even threatens Russia, after the last 2 years I don’t exclude anything.

        • Sam


          First, fix your Cyrillic keyboard, your O is showing as a 0.

          What propaganda world do you live in?

          Russia is alienating Sweden and Finland, who are both considering joining NATO because of Russian threats. Go ask them.

          • stranger

            Some words are in the black list to trigger moderation, I though NAT0 might be one of them, na3i and others.

            Sweden is very frightened, you are absolutely right. FSB has caught a secret video what is going on in Sweden headquarters. Enjoy:

          • Myyryläinen

            Most of us finns are against joining NATO. Only our political elite is moving step by step towards it.

  2. L Y Luciuk

    Thanks for this report confirming what any reasonable person already knew, namely that the Russian Federation’s military shot down Malaysian Air Flight MH 17, murdering all of the civilians aboard, by any definition of the word a war crime that Mr Putin’s regime is answerable for, preferably in the dock at The Hague. This event, of course, occurred within the context of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia, including the illegal occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea, a war in Europe that will only end after the West provides Ukraine with the defensive weaponry it needs to further blunt Russian revanchism.

  3. stranger

    I guess Bellingcat and its founder is looking for a fame and a successful career much more than the objectivity. The people like Assange or Snowden came against the System because they felt they have to made public what they knew for the sake of the public. As the result Assange ended up to live in the Ecuador embassy in London while Snowden lived for a long time in one of Moscow airports.
    That is definitely not the carrier BC is looking for. Bellingcat always supports the official government position. All their investigations appear only when they are needed to prove something in the context of the current political course.
    Firstly the allerged usage of the poisoning gas by Assad, then Russian involvement in Ukraine, then making laugh of Almaz Antey version and defending DSB report, then helping to stop Russia under Aleppo by allerged cluster bombs and destroyed hospitals etc.
    MH17 was to a some degree an exception because it is a very important and unique topic. But still they took anything for granted from DSB and Ukrainuan side and distorted as much as they could the Russian position. They came very carefully around Ukrainuan buks in the vicinity, just took a couple of reported Buks very far from the site and proved they were too far indeed.
    Bellingcat would never touch critical topics like who sponsored the revolt in Ukraine, who were those snipers at Maydan, that ATO killed thouthands of civilians and the terr0r of volonteer battalions, anything which would not be aligned with the current official political course.
    They touch only safe and potentially profitable topics, profitable in whatever respect, my be just for a fame and career.
    Even though what they can do technically is very impressive, the topics are carefully preselected and the required conclusion is defined first and only then supporting evidences are gathered to prove it.
    I can only wish to be less biased and consider multiple points of view from different sides.

    • Mx

      To stranger,

      Very Impressive! You must have had a hard time writing this meaningless stuff.
      Tell me Is there a special breeding farm cultivating a special sort of id*iots like you in Russia or being an id*iot is a natural state of mind in Russia?

      • stranger

        Ha, guess how do I spot Ukrainian trolls by mentality, you don’t have to be Jedy to recognize such perfect clinical case. 🙂

        • Sam

          There aren’t Ukrainian trolls here until you start the fake pro-Russian ones.

          If you like the the Russia besieged fortress propaganda lies

          Well then this site is Russia ( the murders, liars, etc…) vs the world. The whole world not paid by the Kremlin.

          • stranger

            There are a lot of Ukrainians at this forum, ‘trolls’ should not be taken literally. Sometimes it is difficult to tell who are trolling and who is honest.

          • oui oui

            when could someone say easily that sputnik or rt and co are honest
            the reading of a simple article is a diificulty
            you live in their reality , watching their tv , brrrrrr
            read this gentle one ,
            and now the EU have to spend a little more in Nato , genius , thank you , merci
            success in resolving the Syrian crisis ??? in how many years
            putin popular in Syria !!! well , not funny
            ” the country yet again declared itself as a strong state ” , while in fact nothing has changed , just ” liar ” is connected in every mind , the country declared itself as a strong liar
            a part of the humanity isolated , disconnected
            but not the only one

      • stranger

        Only my impression, you may disagree. Didn’t mean to touch anybody.

    • boggled

      stranger, maybe you criticism of BC by you saying –
      —–I can only wish to be less biased and consider multiple points of view from different sides.

      Should be directed at RT as they on their main page make it plain the only promote the RUSSIAN (Kremlin) POV of world events -usually not concerning Russia itself.
      And hevaen forbid if they have ever done an article critical of the Kremlin.

      BC scours the Internet for OPEN sourced intelligence.
      They may not find it all.
      IF you have some that might change the conclusion of an investigation, then offer it.

      So far BC has stood above others of the Russian media community – crucified child ring a bell?- in its investigations and opened itself to the world for scrutiny and criticism.
      BCs investigations have stood up, and when they did not, they corrected the articles or explained why they disqualified a part of evidence.

      You did notice that they posted an article that leaves some open questions but suggests UA’s military is to blame for a checkpoint being hit with artillery.

      SO, if you want to start screaming BIAS, I wait to see you all over screaming and criticizing all RF media as they are clearly ukrainiaphobes, U know that is the message they are promoting.

      I also wait you to join me on bashing on RT, Russia mfa, and other Russian media for showing their clear bias, one could say nationalist nonobjective view of the world at large.

      The Russia media, for the most part who get their funding from the DUMA, have NEVER been hypercritical of Kremlin decisions or vova.

      Western media is repeatedly critical of our leaders.

      Does that tell you something or doesn’t it?

      And yes, I do also take offense to your claim BC goes into an investigation with a preconceived conclusion.
      That is what Russian media (Kremlin controlled) did with the crucified child and many of their other stories.
      They went in with a preconceived LIE and built a fiction around it.

      They were caught lying by the world.
      RT even went as far as saying many child crucifixions were being performed by UA.
      They deleted the post when repeated called out on it, but they still pushed it in the first place.

      Russian media shows bias
      Shows they will promote a false story
      Shows they will manufacture a fiction with RF actress to promote a anti Ukraine message.

      Will you join me in bashing RF media until they are hypercritical of the Kremlin?

      Fare thee well

    • Sam

      Wikileaks said they have proof that Assad committed war crimes,

      Then wikileaks support Assad.

      Wikileaks didn’t even want to investigate the #PanamaPapers#
      according to the person that leaked the info.

      Then wikileaks complained they didn’t have access

      Assange is a Russian tool.

      • stranger

        But Assange is hidden in Ecuador embassy, not Russian one. I’d rather think that Snowden who stack in Moscow airport when US cancelled his passport must be a Russian spy, but may be he just couldn’t have used his invalid passport to fly away or he had nowhere to go.

        • Sam

          According to British newspapers, Assange either wanted or had Russian guards.

          Ecuador didn’t want these Russians in the embassy.

          Snowden was an idealist, used as someone’s tool.

          He took many documents that had nothing to do with his “public revelations”.

          No doubt China and Russia have all of these documents.

          Good for them for having good spies. All countries do that.

          Snowden was an ignorant idealist. I don’t think he knew he was being used, but that’s his fault.

          Russia can keep Snowden, no one else wants him. He’s a political liability for anyone other than Russia, North Korea, or Iran.

          China doesn’t want him, and neither would Cuba nor Venezuela.

    • Frank

      Stranger, sorry, mostly your responses are somewhat oftopic and do not really tribute to the essence of the articles posted here.
      The articles do contain some interesting facts which simply can not be refuted.

    • Mad Dog

      hahahahaha and ha stranger. Pretty senseless broadside coming from someone in Mother Russia, land of the Free and the Brave (yep, that’s right, those willing to be free and brave end up in a landfill somewhere).
      Perhaps you can give us an idea of some “unbiased” sources. Please! News group from North Korea perhaps (KCNA). China Daily? Give us a break and let us know who you think more fitting to the task.

      • stranger

        There are no unbiased and absolutely independent mass media. But there are media biased in different directions. Combined together they may give more or less complete picture. I like to get news from Facebook for example, where there are people who compile news from various sources according to their personal position. But since there are people with the opposite positions one can get the views from many sides. There is a strong temptation to read only one side, which appeals to you, of course, which many people do.

        • Dissident voice

          Stranger, if you really are sincere, pls withdraw yourself from this forum.

          Bellingcat is only giving access to a few people like you to bolster their own credibility.

          First they show this way they are a open forum when in fact they muted virtually all dissident voices by IP-bans.

          Second, they use you to show how a quintessential “putinist” thinks, even when you are not a putinist at all but just show some sceptic mind and rational criticism. Its a well known PR technique used to bring all kinds of dissent, especially the most rationalist and logical ones, into one container of opinions which can be labeled negatively by putting some enimical name to it.

          Third, they use you to give all their supporters and assets a possibility to attack every objection being made against Bellingcat’s work and enhance the impression only the Bellingcat story deserves real merit.

          Fourth, this way they also bolster the idea of these people they belong to a sect of Truth, permeating social media with the Bellingcat storyline as real Jehova witnesses.

          So, Stranger, the best thing you can do is retract yourself and show their real colours.

          • stranger

            Yes I guessed so. John said that almost directly.

            There are ‘commenters’ here who most of the newby people would perceive as mentally deficient clowns or trolling and excitedly start to debunk, but who are actually smart enough and deliberately serving the purpose of creating a buzz and provokate commenters directing the discussion in the way serving their purposes.

            Nevertheless I haven’t pursued any agenda and didn’t really care if somebody is ‘using’ my comments or if somebody (mis)/understands that is some or another way.

            You may think I’m stupid enough to react on provocations, and that’s true, I’m not pursuing any agenda though.

            I’m surprised though how you have appeared. Do you have examples of IP bans here? You definitely know more about BC that you have told so far, why wouldn’t you share?

          • stranger

            I’ve heard your kind advice. But still, you intrigued everybody so much, that you just have to tell more. I don’t work for any side here, but cannot help to be simply curious what is going on?

          • stranger

            What’s your interest to criticize BC? I’m not saying I disagree, but really intrigued.

        • Frank

          Your view is wrong in regard to serious western media.

          Yes, the way they approach a topic can be influenced by their historical social background; “progressive, conservative, leftish, labour, religious, non-religious, etc…
          However, serious western european media will pursue the thruth.
          In some cases they will have different opinions about the truth and how to deal with it.
          They often criticize eachother as well.
          Still, all based on evidential based arguments.

          There is a difference in lying and in telling the truth!!

          There is a difference in rectifying something and trying to somehow keep a lie alive.

          There is a difference in a society/media mechanism with a dialectical approach that leads to the truth and changes/emancipation… (though not perfect, it is best we have)
          and in a society/media that has only one view that can be heard (and propagandized).

          • Myyryläinen

            Frank: “… serious western european media will pursue the thruth.”

            Where did you hide those “serous” medios? Can you help me to find them?

            Or is the issue in the meaning of “serious” and it’s variants case by case?

  4. Vladislav

    Stranger, after two years people have gained immunity against the bullshit, what you are typing here. Adequate people stopped perceiving persons, whose intentions lies in deluding others.

  5. John Zenwirt

    (Canada has built it’s own NSA-style, CSEC’s new HQ, cost: $800 million.)

    “A secret court authorization allows the NSA to spy on all of the world’s countries except four, one of them being Canada, according to U.S. government documents obtained by the Washington Post.”

    “The NSA automatically filters out phone calls from Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the Post reports, essentially making those the only countries in the world the U.S.’s electronic spy age.”

    “…they, along with the U.S., are members of the “Five Eyes,” a Cold War-era alliance, that allows the five countries to share “signals intelligence “amongst themselves.”

    “In an interview with German media, Snowden described the “Five Eyes” as something that has evolved into “a supra-national intelligence organization that doesn’t answer to the laws of its own countries.” (HuffPo)


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

You can support the work of Bellingcat by donating through the following link: