Was a Russian AWACS aircraft operating at July 17 able to detect MH17?

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At Twitter around December 2015 some Tweets were sent suggesting a Russian Air Force AWACS plane could have detected what happened to flight MH17.

It is very unlikely this aircraft recorded anything about MH17 for the reasons below:

  1. the aircraft was likely operating on a testflight (if it is was indeed an AWACS aircraft. Could be a IL76 transport plane as well)
  2. the time the aircraft was last observed at Flightradar 24 was over 1 hour before the shotdown of MH17

At July 17 2014 a Russian Air Force AWACS aircraft was operating over  close to the Russian-Ukraine border.

The image below shows the flightpath of flight AZAZ909 at July 17 2014 at 11:33 GMT as displayed by Flightradar 24. The aircraft was see at Flightradar between 10:42UTC and 11:48.

The Flight Data Recorder of MH17 registered its last event at  13.20:03

The aircraft type could be a Beriev A-50U Mainstay AWACS aircraft of the Russian Air Force. The aircraft is equiped with a large radar antenna. The range of the radar is around 650 km for flying objects. So the radar of the AWACS should easily be able to detect MH17.

But how likely is that? The Beriev A-50U is modified at Taganrog Aviation Scientific & Technical Complex. Beriev which modifies IL76 transport aircraft to Beriev A-50 is based at Tananrog. The flight pattern observed on Flightradar24 indicates some sort of testflight. All Beriev A-50 aircraft of the Russian Air Force are based at Ivanovo Severny Airbase according this source

The ModeS Id is an unique identifier of the ADS-B transponder on board of the aircraft.

For example 1533EE belongs to a IL76 of Russian Air Force with registration RA-78830

Dutch Safety Board did not request Russian Air Force for radar recordings of this AWACS aircraft according their final report published at October 13 2015.

The modeS of the aircraft is not clearly seen on the image below. It looks like 142C2E

This file shows ModeS id, registration and type of aircraft. 142C2E is linked to an Antonov 12 cargo aircraft.



AZAZ909 is a generally used callsign for aircraft of the Russian Air Force. This example shows AZAZ909 being an IL76 Transport plane of the 223rd Flight Unit.

AZAZ909 was also used by Ilyushin IL-76MD – 224th Flight Unit State Airline – RA-78844

Credit for Hans de Vreij for reporting.


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2 Comments on Was a Russian AWACS aircraft operating at July 17 able to detect MH17?

  1. sotilaspassi // December 28, 2015 at 9:10 am // Reply

    Nice to see if we ever get any official mention of what that plane managed to “see”.

  2. The “Vega-M” is capable of tracking up to 50 targets simultaneously within 230 kilometers

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