Russian radar does not show any Ukraine fighter aircraft.

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The Russian Ministery of Defense presented at a pressconference a couple of “evidences” which should proof that MH17 took a detour the the north. It also showed on radar that an aircraft was close to MH17 at the time it crashed.

This post will explain in detail that what the Russians told are simply impossible.

  • According Russia the fighter aircraft of Ukraine airforce showed up on radar after MH17 was hit
  • the fighter aircraft must have been at 5000 meters or lower when it shot at MH17. The cannon onboard a SU-25 does not have a range to hit an aircraft that far
  • the radar did not show the strange detour towards the north as explained in the same pressconference.
  • in fact what the Russians make us believe is a fighter aircraft is actually falling debris.
  • you will notice the small dots on the radar screen hardly move from their position. If thise would be an aircraft you would see movements. Oekraine does not have aircraft which are able to hover like a Harrier.

I am not the only one convinced convinced that the dots are in fact falling debris. At  Pprune.org, a forum for aviation specialists like pilot and air traffic controllers, someone explains that this “does appear to show the appearance of debris from the break up”

Introduction to radar

Lets have a look at radar first. Air Traffic Control uses two types of radar. A primary surveillance radar and secondary surveillance radar.

Primary radar is based on an antenna which transmits radio signals into the air. Objects will reflect those signals and the antenna picks it up. The system then shows a dot on a radarscreen. The system can determine speed and course, sometimes the heigth of the object. However flightnumber and type of aircraft is not detected by primary radar.

Primary radar is expensive to maintain and old technology.

Secondary radar uses a different signal to detect and get information from flying objects. Each aircraft equipped with a transponder is detectable by a secondary radar. The radar will interrogate the transponder and this will sent information like speed, heading, callsign to the radar. Any object in the air without carrying a tranponder used in civil aviation will not be detected by secondary radar.

Civil aircraft doing passenger services  all have a transponder. Some of the smaller light aviation as well. Even some gliders are equipped with a transpodner. Military aircraft do  have a transponder but that is used for identification for friend of  foo (IFF).

So the Russian explanation of the dots on radar being a military jet could be correct. However read on.

The radar screen as shown in the Russian MoD presentation is a combination of primary and secondary radar. As soon as MH17 has been hit the transponder does not operate anymore. The altitude information disappears and what is left are dots on the screen.

However, what the radar detects and shows are debris. We know the cockpit separated from the fuselage. As the transponder was not working anymore this is shown as a dot. The other dots are debris and a large part of the fuselage which continued for a few kilometers. These parts were found 8,5 km from the last recorded FDR position.

What you see is three commercial aircraft. MH17 is the one with the box around it and flightcode MAC17.  That is MAS17 in Russian language. The current position of all three aircraft is represented by a small square. On the radarscreen it is hard to see. At a certain moment the square changes into a circle.

An extrapolation of the route is show as a line which runs ahead of the aircraft. That helps the air traffic controller to predict the route of the aircraft in the next couple of minutes. The route back in time(route taken)  is show by the dots behind the aircraft.

This post has a great explanation about radar. For some reason it has been deleted at the original site but Webarchive still has a snapshot of it.

The radar screen and why dots is not a military aircraft

Now lets us have a closer look at the radar screen and what the Russians presented. The Russian Ministery of Defense press conference is here. They show the route MH17 had taken. This was proven to be wrong. See my post here titled ‘ Moscow lies about MH17 route

Here is another video of the radar screen. And here you will find another video.  An this is the YouTube version of the radarrecording.

This is the same video but showing more details.

And this video shows a closeup of the same radar screen zoomed in to MH17

Then they showed a recording of the radar screen. Coincidently the Russian started the video a few moments before MH17 dissapprears from the radar screen. Strangely enhough they do not show that strange curve MH17 made. If the Russians were confident about their statement, why not show it.

Next they claim that immediatelty after the aircraft was loosing speed, another aircraft appeared on the radarscreen. The Russians say aircraft flying below 5000 meters cannot be detected on radar.

So if MH17 was hit by an aircraft the aircraft must have fired at MH17 from an altitude below 5000 meters. MH17 was flying at flightlevel 330 which is 33.000 feet which is 10058 meters.

Around 21:31 in the video the translator explains that the aircraft was initially flying lower than 5000 meters. It is also said that a Ukraine Air Force aircraft appears on the radar at 17 hour 21 minuts 35 seconds. That is 1 minute,32 seconds after the Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder stopped working according the Dutch Safety Board report. 

The radar shows that around 13:20:29 the speed of MH17 drops very fast. This is the moment the aircraft was hit. The time is shown in the righthand side of the screen. The recording of the radar continues till 13:24:58. Then the radar screen freezes while the video continues.

So for 4 minutes and 39 seconds the radar shows dots on the screen in the neigborhood of where MH17 was last seen on the radar. Now we learned at radar shows the position of an aircraft back in time. I am not sure for how long but I guess for about 15 seconds.

So the radar has spotted debris in the air for about 4 min 39 minus 15 seconds = 4 min 26 seconds.

This post shows another analysis of the radar screen.

The image below shows the track of MH17 as displayed in the Russian radar. The track is the orange line. The purple lines are other other two passenger aircraft near MH17.

The red line is the radar plot after MH17 lost altitude and speed as seen on the radar. This are the debris falling. Also the main part of the fuselage minus forward section and cockpit. This came down at the end of the red line.

The blue dots are places were debris were found.

As you can see the plots of radar are very close to the dots were debris were found. It is also impossible a fighter aircraft flew near that red line and then went below radar again. It is just too short distance.

And this blogpost explains what you see on the radar screen. It explains primary radar and secondary radar.

A Russian blog also has some Google/ Yandex maps with a plot of the Rostov radar. The images below both indicate:

  1. the radar plots are exactly over the area where the debris fell.
  2. there is hardly any horizontal movement of this plots in the time. As Ukraine does not have Harriers or gunship helicopters able to operate at 10KM the SU-25 story is nonsense

You will also notice some radar plots continueing towards the south east. That is most likely due to the extrapolation of the radar. The computer which filters the radar signal continues to predict the course of MH17 even when it does not fly anymore.

 

radar-dots radar-dots-2

Someone made a vidoe showing Rostov Radar displayed over a Google map. The video was published by the Bellingcat research team.

The weapon debunked

A military aircraft can destroy another aircraft using two types of weapons:

  1. a cannon
  2. an air to air missile

Russia suggested a Su-25 was used to shot down MH17. What kind of weapons does this fighter jet carries? By the way the Su-25 is designed to destroy tanks and thus flies at low altitudes. It has a service level of 7000 meters according the website of Sukhoi. It is unable to reach 33.000 feet.

Air to air missiles have infrared guidance. This means the missile seeks for heat exhaust of its target. That is typically the engine(s). So the missile will head for the engine exhaust. Most have a proximity fuse. At a certain distance to its target it will exlode.

A likely candidate for a SU-25 figher jet is the R-60 missile. It has a 3 kg warhead. That is far less than the 70 kg warhead of the BUK M1. So the R-60 is a relative light weapon. If it hit one of the engines of MH17, the flight data recorder would record a failure of the engines. Pilots would have noticed and would have talke about it. This would be recorded on the cockpit voice recorder. We know from the Dutch Safety Board report both CVR and FDR stopped all of a sudden. No strange situation was recorded.

The R-60 missile is a so called continuous rod warhead. This means it spreads small strips of metals in a specific pattern so that when it explodes it spreads into a large circle that cuts the target. A bit like a chainsaw pattern. This photo show the typical damage of a continious rod warhead:

Other air to air missiles the Su-25 can carry are K-13 (AA-2)  and Vympel R-73 . The R-73 has a continuous-rod warhead as well.

Other missiles use a fragmentation warhead. An overview can be found here.

The GSh-30-2 30 mm Cannon used in a Su-25 has an effective range of 1220 meters.   Other sources like this man on a Russia Today documentary mention a range of 300-2000 meters. Imagine shooting a cannon in a fast moving Su-25 towards an even more faster moving aircraft at a distance of 5000 meters!

su-25-cannon-range

Besides the cannon cannot reach MH17, it is physically impossible. The Su-25 had to fly at a certain angle to shoot at MH17. That angle would have caused the Su-25 to stall. Remember the Su-25 was designed as an aircraft to attack tanks on the ground.

A third reason MH17 cannot be hit from a cannon is that it would be impossibe for the Su-25 pilot to even see MH17. It was very cloudy at the time MH17 was shot down. So when flying 5000 meters or more below MH17 there would be a lot of clouds between Su-25 and Boeing 777.

The statement about a Ukraine Air Force aircraft not detectable below 5000 meters can be read here.  The english version is here.

At August 6 1988 a Botswana Air Force Hs-125 was hit by a R-60 missle shot by an Angola Air Force fighter. The Hs-125 lost an engine and the cabine was decompressed but the aircraft could land safe and was later repaired. The Hs-125 is a small business jet. You can imagine a Boeing 777 would not immediately crash if hit by a R-60.

This is the damage done to the Botswana HS-125. Some background information on this incident here. 

See also the Korean Air Lines B707 which was hit by a R-60 missile. Its wing was damaged but the aircraft continued to fly and make a landing at a frozen lake in the former Sovjet Union.

The supposed aircraft then seems to hover over the spot where MH17 crashed. The radar screen does not show any movement at all of the dots. A Su-25 cannot hover like a Harrier aircraft so that is impossible as well.

 

Falling debris 

The dots on the radar screen are falling debris. Now some people might object to that saying it is impossible for debris to take that long to fall. Remember the aircraft flew at 33.000 feet. Terminal velocity is the maximum speed a falling object will reach. The terminal velocity for a human body is around 200 km/h. That means if  a body drops from the altitude MH17 was flying it will take 3 minutes to reach the ground. 

That is a falling body. Mind the cockpit and forward fuselage section separated from the aircraft. Then other parts well off.  A main part of the fuselage , the middle, continued a foreward movement. It slowly decended and hit the ground about 8 to 10  km from where the cockpit hit the ground.

The prove for the dots on the radar screen are falling debris is also provided by the Russian Rostov airtraffic controller. He clearly states that the aircraft is falling apart. This is a screenshot from the Russia today documentary titled “MH17: the untold truth”

So it very likely that parts of the fuselage will require 4 min 26 seconds before hitting the ground.

However, one of the wings of the PanAm Boeing 747 which exploded at 31.000 feet above Lockerbie took 46,5 seconds to reach the ground. (Source pag 53)

time-needed-for-fallng-debris

Now remember the Russian lady doing the translation. She said Rostov radar does not cover aircraft flying lower than 5000 meters at the range MH17 was flying. I do not think that is correct.

I think Rostov primary radar reach of detection of aircraft is much lower than 5000 meters. I do not think debris can take 4 minutes and 26 seconds for a decend from 10.000 meter to 5000 meters.

So this even more debunks the story of aircraft flying under the radar of Rostov and showing up all of a sudden. But as said, even when coverage is 5000 meter or higher there is no way any fighter aircraft could have destroyed MH17.

rostov-mh17-is-faling-apart

Large debris will have a lot of wind resistence hence the fall will likely last longer than a human body.

Air France 447 crashed into the Ocean when flying at cruise level. It was flying 6000 feet higher than MH17. The aircraft was intact when it hit the water. Still it needed 3 minutes and 30 seconds to hit the water. See wikipedia. 

 During its descent, the aircraft had turned more than 180 degrees to the right to a compass heading of 270 degrees. The aircraft remained stalled during its entire 3 minute 30 second descent from 38,000 feet[33] 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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12 Comments on Russian radar does not show any Ukraine fighter aircraft.

  1. Just when I thought I read most of your articles and assimilated them all, you throw up a new one at me that is very important and it makes me ashamed to say I had not read it before.
    Thank you for your work on this, it explains a lot.

    Your right, my reply to Hector should have not been written, and I am glad you deleted it, but he opened himself up for that type of reply by asking that question.
    And all of my points were valid. Regardless it was not the place for it, his articles are.

    To that point, a small correction or question about the article above.
    About three quarters of the way down, you state about an RT news piece –

    The GSh-30-2 30 mm Cannon used in a Su-25 has an effective range of 1220 meters. Other sources like this man on a Russia Today documentary mention a range of 300-2000 km. Imagine shooting a cannon in a fast moving Su-25 towards an even more faster moving aircraft at a distance of 5000 meters!

    I know RT has told some outright lies before, but really? 2000 KM?
    Not all the SAMs can travel 300 km.
    I am guessing you meant meters, but I could be wrong.
    It would not surprise me a guy may have said that on RT.

    Great research on other airliner disasters as well, very informative.

    Fare thee well

  2. Su-25 was also designed to attack military transport aircrafts and gunships in the air. Cause this attacker is armored, direct hit of tail defensive gun is needed to knock it out – proximity fused shrapnel would not take it. The same defensive mounts have Flights#1 world over so as DIRCMS and electronic countermeasures. Thus, better way to shoot’em is to use armored attackers with unguided gun shells and laser-guided anti-tank weapons like “Vikhr”, Su-25 also has. BTW as locals report, MH-17 cockpit away of 30mm round hits identified here on YT watch?v=iuoIw3jBV4g 14:20 – 15:26 also has copper on its instrumental panel. SA-11 Buk missile’s shrapnel is much smaller – 8.4 mm only, not 30mm.
    Su-25 service ceiling is 7000-14,600 meters depending on mod and mission objective, even UKrOboronService mentions 7000-10000 meters for refitted Su-25K trainers about to be exported to Africa (for domestic use UAF has much better Su-25 mods).

    • John, su25 is not capable To down mh17.

    • John, su25 is not capable To down mh17.

    • However, the claims of Su-25s being capable to perform a stable flight at 10 km made both by the Ukrainian and the Russian military have been debunked by the plane’s designers many times. And don’t forget they can fly as high as at 7 km without any armaments only.

      http://www.sukhoi.org/eng/planes/military/su25k/lth/

      “Service ceiling (without external ordnance and stores), km – 7”

      (What they call a “Service ceiling without external ordnance and stores” is actually an “absolute ceiling” in correct English terms.)

      Ukraine has no new modifications that could fly better than their old planes from the 1980s (and surely these old Ukrainian planes perform worse than newer Russian modifications) — the only thing Ukraine modified on several Su-25s was some navigation and targeting equipment, no changes to either engines or the airframe have been made.

  3. Does someone have the link to public document showing how Rostov primary radar can see planes from ~1500m height around donetsk?

    (As a further confirmation, we see there is helicopter moving near the border, on RU side, when MH17 breaks.)

  4. Boggled, the map under your last link is an outdated (made about 5 or 10 years ago and not correct anymore) map of the Soviet/Russian ballistic missile attack early warning radar network which has nothing to do with air traffic.

    • Partially true and I rely on your statement about it being dated.
      And I guess I will have to rely that it is only for ballistic missiles.

      I just posted it because it was interesting, nothing more.

      But thinking about it, it is for primary military radar tracking.
      Are you so sure that it did not include low altitude Tomahawk cruise missiles as well as ballistic missiles???

      I could be wrong, and your right radar zones change as the threats change, so this would be dated.
      And the current one would be top secret.

      Anyways, it was just an interesting graphic, and I was not sure about cruise missiles or not, and if they wanted they could track a BUK missile launch from ground based military radar stations.

      Mostly I knew it was an early warning missile defense radar zone map.

      Fare thee well

  5. This is a little bit related…

    R27
    -air-to-air missile
    -39kg warhead (fragments or rods, rods according to US intelligence?)
    -long range
    -various guidance systems
    -can be used by SU-27, as an example, not by SU25, as an example

    To hit airliner cockpit, this missile needs to be radar guided version and launched directly from ahead of the target.

    Do we have information of what kind of fragments this missile has? What kind of damage it does?

    MH17 was hit from ahead, with 70kg or larger warhead (to be able to cut cockpit heavy structure into pieces), warhead has had variable size fragments, some of them most likely being boutie shaped.

    So R27 definitely does not seem like MH17 related, but at least UA indicated it suspects R27 to have been used against their SU25.

  6. Fighter & radar jet related…

    “It was an R27 missile (fragmentation based) shot likely from a Su-27, that was hovering at a medium altitude

    (~3km, above clouds but below reach of Russian radars) somewhere between Torez and Zaroschenske.”

    1) SU-27 can not hover, it needs to move 300km/h to fly
    2) SU-27 is not stealth, we should see it on the radar like we see the helicopter on RU side of the border
    3) the helicopter is most likely below cloud base, so it would indicate Rostov radar reach lower than RU

    propaganda says.
    4) why would it shoot at airliner coming from the direction of Kiev?

    >There were Ukrainian Su-25’s in the area near crash, but they had nothing to do with the crash

    IIRC, there is not eyewitness record from 17Jul about any fighter jet.
    All fighter jet eyewitness came later (after propaganda actors had time to train the witness??)

    PLEASE, anyone, provide a link if some other info exist, recorded 17Jul2014.

    >Russia would know that there are Ukrainian military radars capable of detecting a Buk launch, and still

    decided to shoot the airliner.

    To my understanding Ukraine had no (proper) “artilery radar” that can detect smaller than ballistic

    missiles/fighterjets.

    Is there a link to info about UA ground force capability to detect SAM missiles?

    > You think this is plausible? Or is it more likely that Ukraine claims they switched off the radars because

    they don’t want to show recordings proving their planes were still flying?

    Do all radars “record” what they detect? I doubt all field radars record. And many of them seem directional, can not detect unless pointed to suitable direction.

    It seems RU had primary radar coverage on the area. (+RU AWACS plane flying near Ukraine border?)
    Why Rostov radar would show the helicopter on the border but not UA fighter jets?
    Why RU destroyed their radar data if it could have proven them “innocent”?

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