Why it is extremely unlikely Ukraine does not have primary radar recordings

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update 10 januari 2019

Naar aanleiding van het interview door Novini van de verkeersleider Volkov heb ik een factcheck gedaan van zijn uitspraken. Daaruit blijkt dat Volkov niet op de hoogte is van de radarsystemen zoals in gebruik voor verkeersleiding van burgerluchtvaart. Zijn uitspraak dat wat de ambassadeur heeft gezegd klopt dus zeker niet!

Volkov heeft wel kennis van de radarsystemen die worden gebruikt voor de bewaking van het luchtruim boven Oekraine. Dit radarsysteem is nooit eerder besproken en genoemd door Oekraine.

De kans dat deze radars uitstonden in juli 2014, toen het volop oorlog was, is vrijwel nihil.

Het uitgebreide onderzoek lees je hier. 


Ukraine did not hand over primary radar recordings to Dutch Safety Board and the Joint Investigation Team.

Primary radar can show military aircraft or might be able to detect a missile. While primary radar for air traffic control purposes might not be able to detect a missile, many of the radar systems in Ukraine which support SAM batteries are 100% certain capable of detecting missiles. This is what these are designed for.

Ukraine stated to DSB, after many months into the investigation and after DSB sent a senior diplomat to Kiev as a final attempt to obtain radar, that primary radar of Ukraine air traffic control was under maintenance. Military radar stations were switched off because no flights were planned.

For sure the air traffic controller of UkSATSE did not have primary radar coverage. This can be concluded from the telephone conversation with Rostov.

It is however totally unbelievalbe Ukraine military did not have primary radar stations switched on to defend the airspace over Eastern Ukraine.

There seems to be a good reason for Ukraine:

  1. to state there is no military radar recording available;
  2. to deny military aircraft were operating near the crash site at the same time MH17 crashed ;

Both statements are highly suspicious!

There are many issues with the statements made by Ukraine and I will discuss these here.

  • Ukraine had two primary surveillance radar stations for air traffic control purposes which cover the area where MH17 crashed. One was destroyed in June 2014. The other was in maintenance at July 17. Ukraine did not tell DSB that one radar stations was destroyed. Or DSB decided not to mention this relevant information in the final report. Only after incorrect statements by a former Ukraine Secretary of Transport, the ambassador of Ukraine to the Netherlands confirmed one radar station was destroyed in June.
  • Ukraine stated military radar stations were switched off because no military flights were planned at July 17. This seems very unlikely. The previous days there were many military flights operated. Many eyewitness told they saw military aircraft flying at July 17. An overview here.
  • Some suggest military and civil radar were both using the same primary radar stations. As stated, the two radar stations which could cover the area where unavailable. However, as Ukraine was in war, it is extremely unlikely various radar sytems were not monitoring the area. Remember Ukraine claimed a Russian aircraft bombed Snizhne. It does not make sense at all to switch off radar in that situation
  • It seems highly unlikely the sole primary radar station was in maintenance at the time MH17 crashed. It does not make sense to disable the primary radar in the middle of the day. And how many hours does the maintenance take? Did DSB request logfiles? When did the maintenance start? Did it start in the night? What was the reason for maintenance?
  • It took the State of Ukraine 6 (six) months to respond to a letter sent by the families of MH17 passengers requesting for radar recordings. Only after Dutch PM  Rutte stated he would request Poroshenko to respond, Ukraine finally responded. The letter was not signed by president Poroshenko, not by the the Prime Minister, not by the  First Vice Prime Minister but by one of the four Vice Prime Ministers of Ukraine.
  • Ukraine stated in a letter to the families of MH17 passengers that:

    It is also worth bringing to your attention that all the available information on MH17 flight surveillance was provided to the Dutch Safety Board within the framework of the investigation of the crash in line with ICAO rules, the experts of which concluded that the Ukrainian Party had provided all the information sufficient for investigation materials on this matter.

    This is not correct! Ukraine failed to report to Eurocontrol that primary radar were not operational anymore. See this post for details. For each investigation primary radar are very usefull. In 10 years, in not a single case in Europe primary radar recordings were not made available to the investigation team.

  • Ukraine does have mobile radar stations which operate in the field. Many of those support Ukraine SAM batteries like for the S200 and S300 SAM missile systems. It is not known if these radar systems are able to record the radar signal for archiving purposes. This post from Sean O’Connor, Principal Imagery Analyst, Aerospace, Defence & Security at IHS Jane’s, provides a good insight in SAM coverage in Ukraine. Some radar systems mentioned in the article which support SAM batteries are:The 36D6 Tombstone mobile radar which has a range of 300km.
    The 5N63S which also has a range of 300 km.Other types of mobile radr units are for example the MARS-L built by Ukraine firm Aerotechnica. This mobiel radar station is equipped with both primary and secondary radar. The primary radar has a horizontal range of 150 km and a vertical range of 5 km. Unknown is if this unit is able to record radar signals.
    Another example of a mobile radar unit is the 80K6 ISKRA. Iskra is part of the Ukraine  State Concern “Ukroboronprom”. The 80K6 radar has a range of well over 300 km of targets flying at 10 km or below. This radar can be used to support surface to air missile batteries in detecting targets.

    Some internet trolls defending Ukraine state radars were switched off to prevent detection or destruction. Destruction by what? There is no evidence for Russian aircraft or helicopters entering Ukraine airspace let alone these could destroy radar stations. More info here.
    Ukraine Army has been using the 80K6 since 2007. A modernized version is the 80K6M which is not used by Ukraine Armed Forces.


It seems Ukraine is hiding something. We will find out sooner or later.

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39 Comments on Why it is extremely unlikely Ukraine does not have primary radar recordings

  1. Mr.Bushkin // July 13, 2016 at 11:59 am // Reply

    There must have been plenty of military Kupola radars active in the region, but handing over their recordings is apparently not within ICAO rules.

  2. Daniel Been // July 13, 2016 at 1:19 pm // Reply

    Some counter questions coming to mind:

    – does military radar have any archiving or recording enabled by default?
    – if military radar indeed was on, would witness statements count from operators who could then claim eg “we saw nothing that afternoon in the air”?
    – when long-range military radar would indeed be detected (through RWR) could it in this case be targeted by heavy artillery on the ground instead of some Russian air force? Disabling radar for this purpose would not be unheard of. More info https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radar_warning_receiver
    – but even taking the last point into account, why just not say “we disabled the radar because we feared those Russians to invade like they did in Georgia”. Would be more convincing then “we didn’t bomb anything that day in that area unlike on other days”. (a somewhat cynical rendering, my apologies)

  3. There were many evidences for Russian aircraft and helicopters entering Ukraine airspace at that time. For instance, http://zn.ua/UKRAINE/pyat-letatelnyh-apparatov-rf-peresekali-ukrainsko-rossiyskuyu-granicu-za-sutki-149134_.html Do pay attention to the date of the news.

    As for military radars, Ukrainian military aircraft might be in the air out of the ATO zone, so the radars could be engaged for supporting these sorties. All official statements on absence of military flights on July 17, 2014 contained qualifying phrases like “in the ATO zone” or “in accordance with ATO plans” or “no fighter jets” etc. So these were not about absence of any flights of any military planes over all parts of Ukraine.

    • sotilaspassi // July 14, 2016 at 6:09 am // Reply


      +radar killer missiles have range of 100+km, launch platform does not need to be above enemy soil.

      +radar can also be pinpointed by RU AWACS plane or helicopter flying near border. Then radars can be taken out by artillery/smerc from RU side.

      It is good strategy to have simplest inexpensive mobile radar to do enemy spotting. And start heavy caliber radar only when in true need.

  4. JustThinking // July 13, 2016 at 3:07 pm // Reply

    Ukraine claimed UAF didn’t fly on 17.07.2014
    But according to ukrainian mefia and SNBO Lysenko they resumed flights on 16.07
    If UAF were in action then obviously they had radar coverage

    15.07.2014 UAF stoped all flights bcs of AN-26 downing


    https://youtu.be/kKdpBH7lVhU Lysenko

    16.07.2014 UAF resumed flights


    “Украинская авиация совершила за вчерашний день почти 30 вылетов в зоне АТО”
    UAF conducted about 30 flights in ATO zone

    16.07.2014 around 19.00 Ukrainian SU-25 was shot down

    18.07 Lysenko

  5. JustThinking // July 13, 2016 at 3:32 pm // Reply

    Forgot to add main point. Claims “Ukraine didn’t have any flights in ATO zone on 17 July” came only after MH17 downing.
    Claim “Radar maintenance on 17.07” is not true taking into account volatile situation in ATO zone

  6. sotilaspassi // July 14, 2016 at 6:42 am // Reply

    “On July 17, Ukraine air force flew 29 sorties, hitting enemy positions and delivering cargo.”

  7. Daniel Been // July 14, 2016 at 7:57 am // Reply

    But lets think outside the box about this “ATO” zone, in three dimensions. The definition seems a bit fluid. Since civilian air space was not allowed under FL 320, the ATO would start somewhere lower, related perhaps with the airspace called MOA (military operations area). Just to say, Ukraine might just be saying they weren’t flying at any altitude they saw still as being ATO, not considering of course BUK as they were officially not there with the militants (this is of course the issue, this knowledge would change MOA but would imply responsibility for M-17). But to stay out of reach of these “ghost” SAM installations, any present fighter jet had to fly “outside ATO”, above it, like MH-17 did.

  8. There is no evidence for Russian aircraft or helicopters entering Ukraine airspace let alone these could destroy radar stations.
    – It seems to be an incorrect statement. Here is the info from Wikipedia

    Several surface-to-surface missiles, like the P-700 Granit, P-500 Bazalt, MM40 Exocet, B611MR, and Otomat, include a home-on-jam capability wherein the receiver component of their active radar homing is used to home in on enemy radar, ECM or communications. This makes these missiles significantly harder to defeat with ECM and distraction countermeasures, and makes the use of semi-active missiles against them dangerous.”

    – At 2014 it was very reasonable to expect full scale invasion by Russian army to Ukraine. F.i., I had all my basic necessity (clothes, documents, basic medications etc.) prepared for this emmergency. So pls don’t brag about something that you wasn’t personally involved to.

    • Hugh Eaven // July 24, 2016 at 3:16 pm // Reply

      So if, as you say, “it was very reasonable to expect full scale invasion by Russian army to Ukraine”, it would also be very reasonable to say that airspace as well as the sea (for your P-700 of the Russian navy moving in) would be heavily covered with radar 24h a day, wouldn’t you agree? And that the official statements about all the vital stations being in maintenance or “turned off” don’t make that much sense. By the way many locations would be already well known so keeping the radar off will not help simple GPS/GLONASS targeting unless with the highly mobile stations out of sight from satellites and drones.

      It’s doubtful that even Ukraine was really expecting a full invasion. Any further escalation would be clearly in the advantage of the position of the government in Kiev and not in the Kremlin. It would not be in the advantage of the Kremlin to do anything apart from the things they were already doing: creating a sort of proxy-zone which could be turned into some demilitarized zone over time. It’s reasonable to assume this was understood and not to the liking of Kiev at all.

      From your list of weapons only the P-700 Granit is relevant and since it’s a nuke-capable rather heavy cruise missile launched from ships, it would need the fleet to move in to the coast first. Again yet more reasons to put all available radars on for early warning!

  9. Ukraine has radar data from BUK and S-300 systems (example from new 80К6М radar):
    – video about system (rus): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f90g6JxvcV4
    – screenshot from radar view (show all Donbass territory and more): http://uploads.ru/1zmEB.jpg
    – another screens from webtalk (video): http://mh17.webtalk.ru/viewtopic.php?id=396&p=26#p49797

    • sotilaspassi // July 26, 2016 at 5:58 am // Reply

      S-300 would seem advanced enough to be able to record the radar view…
      (little surpriced if their BUK M1 system system can record)

      • sotilaspassi // July 28, 2016 at 8:37 am // Reply

        To be clear,
        1. I would like to see Ukraine release info of it’s military radar locations when MH17 was shot.
        2. I would like to be able to verify the locations via satellites
        3. I would like to have in depth explanations and confirmations that none of the military radars were recording.

        (it is silly not to have any radar on when “enemy” is performing confirmed military operations on your border)

        From the evidence so far, I doubt Ukraine military radar spotted a BUK in flight. But it could reveal details of the fall of MH17 debris, at least. I’m sure no UA military plane was above clouds when MH17 was downed, but it would not hurt to get further confirmation that they were not below clouds either.

        ((at the same time Russia already looks too guilty to ever release any true AWACS or raw primary radar info))

        • Ru MoD on 2014 already tell about Buk’s radars — on July 17 where was max activity of all days before and after — 9 radars (“9С18”) of BUK’s divisions was switch on:

          • 9 radars (9С18) – it’s ALL BUK systems in all Ukraine (by Military Balance):
            – 3x in “11 ЗРП (Хмельницкая обл., г. Шепетовка)”
            – 3x in “223 ЗРП (Львовская обл., г. Стрый)”
            – 3x in “156 ЗРП (Черкасская об., ранее Донецк)”

            E.g. on July 17 work ALL maximum possible buk systems in all Ukraine territory.

          • sotilaspassi // July 28, 2016 at 11:54 am //

            RU MOD lied everything else, so it would be very silly to trust on their number of active BUK radars. Information that is impossible to verify.

            If the information is not 100% fiction, I’m sure 7 or 9 of the active BUK radars were on RU side of the border.

          • sotilaspassi // July 28, 2016 at 11:56 am //

            Does BUK M1 radar record what it sees?

  10. Many interesting info about radar data from Dnipropetrovsk’s dispatcher (was on webtalk forums on 2015 before final DSB report), rus lang: http://mh17.webtalk.ru/viewtopic.php?id=403&p=11#p49921

    Some info, maybe useful:

    1. Radar from Artyomovsk city was damage by separatist;

    2. Before down MAS017 turn on RND point (not fly to TAMAK) by request from Rostov because another aircraft on Russia (Ru MoD do not tell about it but it was call recorded by both sides and Ukraine gave it to DSB);

    3. Dispatcher’s radar save incoming signals at all (from all radars), not individually. All Dnipropetrovsk’s data was gave to DSB (raw, seconds, mode-s).

    4. After Crimea new radars was setup near Berdiansk and Skadovsk cities. Berdiansk’s radar work all time to 400-450 km and saved data from all Donbass territory (they can see Russian aircrafts without transponders flying to Crimea).

    5. From Boryspil’s center (SELEX radar) he can monitor Russian territory on 50 miles from border. All radars combined into a single network.

  11. Daniel Been // July 27, 2016 at 11:19 am // Reply

    We have perhaps two similar cases to consider,

    1. a proven jet missile attack from the air on July 15 on Snizhne, Lenin Street. A “mystery plane” since Ukrainian air force claimed not be active.

    2. rumored jet activity in the air around the incident on July 17. “Mystery plane(s)” as Ukrainian air force claimed not to be active at all.

    One would wonder if the first incident could be found using some archived radar data as well? It would then become clear which airport and attack vector were being used. And whose plane it was, who ordered it.

    Perhaps this might provide a clue why and if any jets could be in the air on the 17th without any official trace left. Or at least it could verify the overall reliability of Ukrainian statements. It’s interesting of course that neither party provided so far any evidence for the 15th attack either.

    • More likely that Russian jets were involved in both cases (if any). Provided that there’s no real evidence for guilt of either Russia or Ukraine for July 15, I have no idea why everyone a priori believes Russian air forces could not bomb Snizhne as an excuse for further hostilities (like open invasion) and for obtaining more loyalty from local population. That’s just a typical Putin’s style, even if such vileness of him and Russian military is so psychologically discomfortably to acknowledge.

      • Daniel Been // July 28, 2016 at 7:57 am // Reply

        But it it were Russian jets, it would mean the attack was done without any tracking from Ukraine, NATO or the US in that heavily monitored area? Because if any of them did track it, for sure this would have been used as a political case against Russia to curtail any further expansion of the involvement.

        My point however is if there’s no way to determine what or who was in the air above Snizhne (as far as the MOA or ATO reach) on the 15th which was seen as potential a war crime, where it’s actually certain there was a jet, why then still expect it for the 17th?

        It’s hard to believe why Russia would blow up an empty tax office in one little town as some impressive “wider escalation”. If you want to speculate, then it’s more likely this operation was SBU/special forces directed and therefore officially “never happened” like all black ops (there’s a legal loophole for that). Not a surprise since the whole conflict appears to have been pretty much SBU managed.

        The larger picture appears to be that some missions were directly SBU managed because of the legality of it and as such deniability. The normal armed forces don’t have that luxury and have their procedures of accountability. This possibility might explain some of the discrepancies we’re seeing.

        • >> But it it were Russian jets, it would mean the attack was done without any tracking from Ukraine, NATO or the US in that heavily monitored area?

          Only Ukraine had technical feasibility to monitor that airspace. However, if the jets flew low enough over Snizhne, they were below the radio horizon for all Ukrainian operational (at that time) radars.

          >> Because if any of them did track it, for sure this would have been used as a political case against Russia to curtail any further expansion of the involvement.

          The West for sure would NOT dare to openly accuse Russia of such deliberate vile war crime even if they somehow detected Russian warplanes. Look at numerous cases when Russians are deliberately bombing civil objects with civilians in Syria. Never there were any proper official reaction from the West, even when the culprit was self-evident.

          >> It’s hard to believe why Russia would blow up an empty tax office in one little town as some impressive “wider escalation”.

          They blew up apartment blocks with civilians! (Remember the organized by FSB forces explosions of apartment blocks in Moscow in 1999 as an excuse for launching the Second Chechen War?) And why do you think it was the only planned act? Who knows, maybe the next one had to be shooting down of some Russian airliner?

          >> Not a surprise since the whole conflict appears to have been pretty much SBU managed.

          This is just absolute nonsense from Russian propaganda. The “conflict” (actually Russian “hybrid” invasion and occupation of a part of the territory of Ukraine) is “managed” exclusively by Russian military.

          • Daniel Been // July 29, 2016 at 11:00 am //


            “However, if the jets flew low enough over Snizhne,”

            They won’t last long that way. That’s not how these jets can operate for long against portable SAM units unless it starts with a quick dive + flares. So that’s a very unlikely scenario you’re suggesting here.

            “look at numerous cases when Russians are deliberately bombing civil objects with civilians in Syria. ”

            There’s a blurry line between ISIS strongholds and “civil objects” which were in many cases a form of hostage taking. The West cannot complain since collateral damage of the US is quite well documented by eg drone pilots. It’s basically a savage massacre industry. The US created this horribly “fog of war” where a lot of innocents died. Of course they know what Russia is going to reply when criticized here! But this is all apples and oranges. The US nor Russia were known to drop bombs in Ukraine before the 15th and had no official operations there. In fact, the US really wanted to prove that Russia was busy at the time, no clear reason to keep silent.

            “apartment blocks in Moscow in 1999 ”

            That’s just the Russian version of 9/11 conspiracy theory, Russian style “truthers”. But even when we’d go with it, why send a one jet to shoot missiles with such a minimal damage and death toll?  You’re not logical here. If they were so bloodthirsty, efficient and deadly back then, why now just this relatively minor attack? Couldn’t they have send a few more planes and finish the whole street at least?

            “This is just absolute nonsense from Russian propaganda.”

            The “revolution” clearly started and/or coincide with a large power shift inside the SBU, to weaken the rather large Russian influence (FSB) with a purge. It makes sense as in these situations control over information is the hub of all power. Security services are the best networked and the most flexible for all the organizing. This is not conspiracy, this is how it works everywhere. This particular internal conflict with many foreign parties involved will be (mostly) managed by intelligence networks. Of course this doesn’t detail the decision making process but only the overall management of the conflict. All high level intelligence gathering, analysis and management is where you need intelligence services for. Not just for “spying”.

            Note that I didn’t say the SBU *started* the conflict on Maidan Square but that the management of the escalation in the East cannot be else than be likely managed by the reformed and purged SBU to a large degree. This is because it’s classified as “anti-terror” operation. It’s not normal warfare. All other conflicts like that are almost always managed by intelligence services, not by just military command or politicians. But it remains classified normally since that’s the nature of the beast.

            My point being that undocumented flights are not strange in this context if they were authorized outside normal command structures.

          • Slozhny // July 29, 2016 at 1:42 pm //

            Daniel Been,

            Do you know of the Friend or Foe System (IFF) that MANPADs are equipped with? Locals noted that no single MANPAD fired at the morning of July 15th. This was unusual. And not even whatever anti-aircraft gun did.

            In 90+% cases Russians bomb enemies of ISIS in Syria. Are you aware of this? And for sure they bomb deliberately at least hospitals (and don’t care when hitting markets, schools, bakeries etc). The quantity of such incidents is far above any expected for accidental events number.

            As for the blown up apartment blocks in Moscow, long ago I spent a great amount of time investigating these (I was living in Russia then). Here is not a proper place to discuss that (Admin would disallow this I think). In short, FSB appeared to be the only plausible version, without doubt.

            As for your nonsense about US, SBU etc that replicates Russian propaganda, I prefer to disregard that sort of rubbish.

          • Daniel Been // July 29, 2016 at 4:08 pm //

            “Do you know of the Friend or Foe System (IFF) that MANPADs are equipped with?”

            So now all the militants were into it as well, since they turned their heads away and never spoke of it when a friendly jet bombed their own? Hmmm.

            “In 90+% cases Russians bomb enemies of ISIS in Syria”

            They all are technically “terrorist” at least if we use the Ukrainian definition of terrorist. But lets limit ourselves to the blog topic as I don’t have a strong opinion over it either way, just that nobody should drop bombs on anyone anymore there for whatever concocted reason.

            “SBU etc that replicates Russian propaganda,”

            Not sure what you mean because I’m not aware of Russia pointing that way to SBU (but it would be interested to here their theories). It just makes sense to me that SBU would be managing the conflict since there’s no other large enough information and control network besides the military command structure which I believe would not be suitable for overseeing all aspects. So I’ll stick with the reformed SBU assisted at times by American counterparts for general management of the conflict. That’s also factual, check out the visits and assistance of the CIA in 2014 alone, also the role of Nalyvaychenko, the visit of CIA boss John Brennan in April and so on. Their counterparts would be SBU and military, not the ramshackle excuse for a provisional government.

            To me that’s obvious and very likely. For you not but that’s okay. It’s not like I’m going to prove it here. Perhaps some more in other posts I’ll make an attempt to argue for it again.

        • sotilaspassi // July 28, 2016 at 8:10 pm // Reply

          “the whole conflict appears to have been pretty much SBU managed.”

          reCAPTCHA should demand brain before it allow posting to this site.

          • Kiev had the means, the motive, and a compliant propaganda machine to blame someone else. If you are not able to understand that, you would be the first victim of your own proposal

          • sotilaspassi // August 1, 2016 at 6:49 am //

            at Athomas

            We have concrete evidence to know what happened. Also we have confession from GRU who started it all.

            Those few extremist in east had no means to start full scale war until Girkin started it with his men and got thousands of armoured vechiles etc. from RU.

            We can be 99% sure the BUK came from same source and (100% surely)was under the command of this GRU.

  12. sotilaspassi // October 11, 2017 at 12:47 pm // Reply

    Main article could/should be updated vs UA military radar info that was delivered to JIT.

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