Dutch prosecutor does not answer questions on Russian supplied radar data

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At January 27 Dutch Public Prosecution Service sent a message to the next of kin. The message was:

This investigation has revealed that the data were supplied in an unusual format. Rules set forth by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) include requirements for radar data used in international investigations. Data complying with these requirements can be interpreted and verified responsibly for any manipulations and errors. Despite the fact that the Russian Federation is a member state of the Convention of International Civil Aviation and has acknowledged the aforementioned ICAO rules, the data supplied by the Russian Federation do not comply with these requirements.

The Dutch Public Prosecution Service did not release a press release about this news.

Soon media started to report about this. Dutch Telegraaf stated “Radara data is unuseable”. The  Public Prosecution Service requested Russia to send the radar data again in ICAO required format.

This is basically a repeat of the radar data discussion during the DSB investigation. Read my blogpost here. 

This message of the Prosecutor raises  a couple of  questions:

  1. What is the format of the radar data which was handed over by Russia?
  2. What is the required format of the radar data as stated by ICAO?
  3. Why did it take the Prosecutor about 3 months to find out the data is not good enough and complex to understand.

The response of the Public Prosecution Service

At January 30 I spoke to Wim de Bruin, spokesman of the Prosecution Service  and asked him the three questions listed above.

His answer to question 1: “I cannot tell you because this  is a criminal investigation”

His answer to question 2: “ask ICAO”. When I responded that it is remarkable Prosecution Service  states data is not in required format but  cannot tell what the required format is, the response was “I do not have the technical knowledge to tell what format the data should have”.

Anwer to question 3: “it is not that easy to just watch a video file with a video player’.

So the anwers are really not of any use. 

So let me try to answer these questions.

Anwer to question 1:

The format the data was in, is hard to guess. If it was just a video file, why would it take the prosecutor three months to declare the data is unusable?  For sure the format was not in ASTERIX as this is the format Dutch Safety Board (DSB) prefers radar recordings to be in. Michiel Schuurman– Senior Air Safety Investigator at DSB, wrote an interesting paper titled Using “ASTERIX” in accident investigation

Likely the data was in a non-standard format used by Russian radar stations but not by Western made radar stations. It could be DSB experts were able to understand some parts of the data, but not all. Maybe because Russia uses a different coordinates system.

Answer to question 2: 

ICAO does not have requirements for the format of radar data. It is as simple as that!

Annex 11 paragraph 6.4.1 states that surveillance data (like primary radar data) should be automatically recorded and retained for at least 30 days.

There is no  mention at all about the format the recording should be.

This is confirmed in an interview with ICAO which took place in January 2016. Members of the Dutch Parliament had an interview with ICAO. The transcript of the interview is here. 

ICAO also states in the interview that ICAO has guidelines. What ICAO states in an Annex are guidelines. Not hard law. No requirements.  The hard law is the legislation of a nation.

In 2016 I contacted ICAO to conform there are no ICAO requirements on the format of data.

The response of ICAO was

ICAO does provide some guidance, however it is by no means prescriptive and simply clarifies that recorded data should support investigations, for instance where the purpose is to replay the scenario as might have been seen or experienced by the air traffic controller.

This would include, for instance, synchronizing the displayed radar data with the voice communications (air-ground and grounds-ground), that are also required to be recorded.

So how come Dutch Prosection Service states Russian Federation should present the radar recordings in ICAO required format?

Because it is politics. In the DSB final report the same discussion was done. DSB stated Russia should hand over raw data. Russia handed over a video recording which is fine according to ICAO. However ICAO guidelines are not targeted for criminal investigations. So ICAO does not have requirements for data format to make sure radar data cannot be manipulated.

Probably Dutch Prosection Service knows Russia has raw radar data and wants to force Russia to hand over the raw data.

Answer to question 3: 

Hard to tell why it took Dutch Public Prosecution Service three months to state the data is not in a required format. The best guess is politics. It is a repeat of the DSB final report process.

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13 Comments on Dutch prosecutor does not answer questions on Russian supplied radar data

  1. Sadly, the spokesman does not have the slightest idea on the matter. My best guess is that there were no radar experts in OM, so OM handed the radar data over to ICAO experts which were unable to make a conclusion on data authenticity because certain key data inside appeared to be faulty (absent, incorrect, unrecognizable). Then OM explained the problem to the next of kin as they understood it themselves from the experts.

    Of course, there was no problem for Russia during the period it withheld the data from the JIT to recode these to any standard format used internationally, like ASTERIX or whatever. But one of the aims for Russia is to delay the investigation as much as possible, so it would be naive to expect prompt assistance from it. Anyway, it was easy to remove all “unnecessary” objects from the data, so the only hope they did not try to inject something there.

    • Any recoding the change and the possible loss of original data fragments. Russia did the right thing by passing the file to the format in which it was recorded. in the case of self-conversion would appear charges of forgery, and if the encoding processes in the European standard will be carried out sovmesno, claims will not be.

    • sotilaspassi // January 31, 2017 at 7:29 am // Reply

      Good points Slozhny.
      JIT need some way to verify the data vs other data.
      It is pretty clear, if A-A is telling the truth, if data is genuine, the data is possibly in some radar manufacturer internal RAW format (or fabricated totally).

      • Marcel: “The data is in an unusable format” = the data does not show us what we would like it to show.

        Soltilspassi: “JIT need some way to verify the data vs other data.”

        They could always compare it to the Ukrainian civilian and military ATC radar data we know must exist despite claims to the contrary. Just like we said for two years this Russian data certainly existed and was being held back until the right moment.

        There is no way that Ukraine was undertaking aerial combat operations and supply sorties without ATC radar to guide military command and control, and there is plenty of evidence of those occurring on July 17, and the military radar at Mariupol airport at the location of the 2nd Regiment of the 156th Air Defense Battallion was most certainly turned “on” on July 17.

        • Until the right moment? Please define the right moment for Russia to disclose the data which in no way contradict the only version of JIT, but contradict previous claims of Russian MoD and Russian propaganda. No real expert would expect a high probability of detection of a missile flying from SE from that range (due to low RCS from nozzle and supersonic radial speed), and no sane person would expect possible marks of that missile to remain intact in the data which Russia handed over to the JIT in “the right moment”. But the raw data from that Ukrainian mobile military radar the JIT has got recently (?), may contain something quite interesting that need to be “disproved” now, in “the right moment”, yeah?

          • Right moment = when they actually did it.

            I missed the raw data from Ukrainian mobile military radar recently being turned over. When was that? Amazing what turns up in the attic when you need to find it.

  2. neantichrist // January 31, 2017 at 9:52 am // Reply

    As I undrstood, Russia made a video.
    And handed over to JIT the film “How the RAW data file is going on on PC dispay”. I mean – near the PC display which opened this file they put videocam and did a piece of cinema.
    Let’s imagine: the primary radar Utes-T and Spain made integrator INDRA at Rostov are recording its RAW data on video tapes. Did You?

    Some ideas:
    Rusia did not tranfer to JIT anything like a RAW data, but a video abt RAW data.
    Russia did not intended to transfer any RAW data to JIT.
    Yaa, the JIT is in some way burocratic machine and they could not in the first week after say – hi, brothers! what the sh.t you did transfer to us?
    But 3 months???

    By the way it is easy to get 100% confirmation abt RAW data file formats at Rostov ATC. Ask INDRA. I’m sure it is not a commercial secret.

    • A video would not require 3 months to react and “the assistance of external experts for this analysis” (provided that OM can carry out an analysis of data “complied with the requirements” without external experts).

      • neantichrist // January 31, 2017 at 10:23 pm // Reply

        My ideas are based on general understanding what is a computer file and how it can be “open/read”.
        RAW primary radar data file is the specific only for the item/process which that file like any other “memory file” should authentically keep/store/conserve as this process was going in the recording moment.
        In other ways it is (like any other comp.file) a sequence of characters and numbers. Could be read/open and be uderstood only with a special soft that “recorded” this one.

        So, real help from Russia side about “to tranfer to JIT RAW data file” can be only in one way: to tranfer the original* file and explain what a soft JIT needs to open and read that file.Or to provide such soft, if nobody has it.

        Any changes of that file nature (reformatting from original extension to other) is a fraud and kill an evidence abt situation in the airspace over the crime scene.

        So, I am sure that JIT experts tried to compare “video abt RAW data file” wz what they have got before and in the end they were forced to admit that Paul McCartney was right: What good is butter if you haven’t got bread?.
        * acc to the Russian mass-media the file was found in memory modules, which were taken from the Utes-T dur routine maintaince just after the crime.
        The REAL help is to transfer to JIT THE MEMORY MODULES but not a flash memory stick/DVD with smthng like a Raw data file…

        • “Routine maintenance just after the crime”, no doubt…
          “The memory modules” are a hard drive. You can guess, raw data for how many days of operation of the radar it contains. All that Russian military aircraft entering Ukrainian airspace… The “unidentified” warplanes that bombed Snizhne on July 15th… Even if some readers of the blog do not believe Russian warplanes crossed the border frequently, helicopters and drones did that many times for sure. Does anyone suppose this hard drive could be handed over to the JIT as is? And if everything else is wiped out there, the hard drive would be completely useless as a proof of authenticity of the data.

          • neantichrist // February 1, 2017 at 8:41 am //

            I agree with U.

            “RAW primary radar Utes-T Rostov ATC data” case/episode was born to be a propaganda case not “evidence found!” case.
            Looking through
            I see only tastyfruity pieces of propaganda.
            a) Russia transfered to the JIT “information on the MH17 crash/the MH17 crash radar data”.
            b) Issues…could have been resolved immediately through joint work with Russian experts.

            What a lie…

          • Russian warplanes bombing Snizhne? Yea, sure, LOL. We all know that it was Ukrainian planes attempting to hit a high value target in the rebel supply yard just to the ENE of the apartment.

            Wonder what that target could have been on July 15? Hmmmm ….

  3. thanks for keeping posting.

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