Here’s how you find out who shot down MH17

Here’s how you find out who shot down MH17

Over a month has now passed since the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash, which resulted in the deaths of all 298 people on board. It is still possible, despite the chaos at the crash site, which is near the small village of Grabovo near Donetsk, to reconstruct what happened.

Immediate reports claimed that a surface-to-air missile had shot down the aircraft. Igor Girkin, leader of separatists, claimed credit for the event shortly after the crash, claiming that his troops shot down what had been assumed to be a Ukrainian military transport. He later denied involvement after learning that it was a civilian aircraft. His forces did not have the weapons to shoot down MH17, which was flying at 33,000ft.

In the weeks that have passed, there have been allegations and counterclaims as to which side the Buk missile launchers believed to be responsible. The truth about what happened to MH17 can be uncovered by combining the evidence of four factors: the secondary radar systems of air traffic control that monitor airspace in eastern Ukraine, the flight data recorder (black box) carried by Boeing 777 aircraft, the specifications of the Buk M1 system and the wreckage from MH17.

View from the air traffic control

secondary radar is the main source of aircraft information for air traffic control. It is a connection between an interrogator on the ground and an aircraft transponder. The interrogator connects to all aircraft in its range at least every four seconds. The aircraft will respond with flight information such as identification, position coordinates, and course.

The area where the MH17 crashed is still contested. Author provided

This information is then processed and correlated to the results of any Primary Surveillance Radar, which detects objects by sending out radio waves and recording the reflections from solid objects.

This is displayed to the en-route controller, in this case, the staff monitoring the Dnipropetrovsk flight information region eastbound in Ukrainian government-controlled territory. The system can pinpoint a flight’s location to within 500 meters, given that (in this instance) MH17’s cruising speed is around 600 knots. This data will be stored and recorded for future investigations. It is very unlikely that the data could have been altered.

Black box data

The flight recorder, also known as the “black box,” records all the instructions sent to the electronic systems of the aircraft. The flight data recorder (FDR) records all instructions sent to electronic systems on the plane, such as the engines, flaps, rudders, and ailerons. It also contains streams of data collected from sensors and computers.

The recorder, which is usually mounted at the tail of the aircraft where it has a better chance of surviving a crash, is updated multiple times per second during the flight. These data are crucial to accident investigations and determining safety issues.

Flight data recorders are an essential part of any investigation. AlliedSignal Aerospace

The FDR data is encrypted and follows a set sequence that would make any attempts to change it obvious. The black box data will allow us to pinpoint MH17’s exact location when the catastrophe occurred within 10 meters.

The missile system

Intelligence reports indicate that the missile that brought down MH17 is a Russian BukM1 Self-Propelled Air Defence System. It’s also known by its NATO reporting name, SA-11, “Gadfly.” It was first introduced in 1979, and its most recent updated version is called the SA-17 “Grizzly.” Both aircraft are in use by Russia, the majority of former Warsaw Pact nations, and other countries to whom Russia exports arms.

Buk M1 surface-to-air missile launcher. :Ajvol:.

The SA-11/SA-17 can be mounted on tracked vehicles to make it easier to move. Its radar can identify an aircraft as a friend or enemy, or if it’s a commercial, using the secondary radar transponder used by air traffic control. The designers have also included a backup mode that allows the missile targeting feature to be operated autonomously without relying on the IFF safety feature. When used in this way, the radar displays all targets within range. In this case, the operator presses the button to fire after selecting one. This system can be operated with only very basic training.

The missile’s range is 42km (26 miles) with a maximum operational height of 25km (82,00ft). The rocket, which has a speed of up to 1,900mph (850m/sec), could reach MH17 in just 11.5 seconds from the launch. The warhead has a proximity fuse that activates between 100ft and 300ft (30 to 90 meters) away from the target. The fragmentation charge is fired, resulting in thousands of shrapnel pieces accelerating in a spread pattern. It is said that the SA-11 has a 95% kill rate, which means it can down MH17 with almost untrained operators.

The wreckage tells a story.

The crash site is located in an area of around 20 square kilometers near Grabovo. However, the larger aircraft parts are scattered over a smaller size. The plane’s downfall is a fact, and the investigation will be focused on the shrapnel. The position and angle at which holes appear in the fuselage of the plane will allow investigators to determine the approximate angle and direction from which the missile struck the airliner. This information will enable investigators to track the reverse trajectory and pinpoint the missile’s launch point to within 100 meters.

Investigators will benefit from the holes and fragments that will litter the fuselage. Author provided

Chemical residues found on shrapnel pieces will confirm if the warhead is an SA-11/SA-17. The shrapnel can be analyzed for metallurgy to determine the exact production batch. Does it match the set that was supplied to Ukraine, or does it come from an unknown collection?

Assembling Evidence

What evidence do you have, then?

  • Air traffic control’s secondary radar surveillance data provides MH17’s course and coordinates within 500 meters.
  • Flight data recorders can be used to determine if a pilot error or component failure caused the aircraft loss. They can also pinpoint the exact location of the aircraft.
  • The SA-11/SA-17 specifications show that the missile launcher is capable of destroying a plane and can be operated, if needed, by a team of inexperienced operators without the added safety of an IFF radar.
  • The wreckage can be used to confirm whether it is an SA-11/SA-17 missile, pinpoint its location when fired, or even ensure that the system was produced in Russia and exported abroad.


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