Ballistics tell no lies, and give a fairly clear account as to what happened
By now, even Reuters broke the story about yet another MH17 shootdown theory. Why bother with the details?
In a word, because the Novaya Gazeta report is the ONLY completely consistent version from an unbiased source that we got so far.
Now, that shouldn’t be taken to mean that this thing is the indisputable truth.
Novaya Gazeta is generally Pro-Western, yes, and publishes multiple stories about Russian troops in Ukraine (most famous one translated here by myself), so this goes against NG’s usual bias – reporting can be considered honest.
However, it’s still a crappy newspaper (approximately at the level of UK’s “The Telegraph”), and a lot of NG’s reporting is simply bad and error-prone.
Moreover, the report itself, purportedly written by “Russian military experts”, appears to be compiled from publicly available sources and has no insider knowledge; in other words, it could be compiled by anyone with a good brain and a lot of time.
However, all of that is vindicated by ballistics evidence. Ballistics don’t lie, and here they paint a relatively clear picture.
Moreover, since all the sources used are publicly available, anyone can do the same work and come to the same conclusions. So let me explain their reasoning:
– Buk warheads throw fragments sideways.
This is because the chances of directly hitting a jet moving faster than a pistol bullet are slim; moreover, if that happens, it’s getting hit by a missile the size of a telegraph pole, anyway.
So the warheads are set up to explode when a target is in close proximity and to the side. Previously, the main “Buk impact” scenario was a launch from a rebel-held Snezhnoe, and damage was explained like so, seemingly corroborated by a large hole in the left side of the pilot’s cabin:
– However, there were serious problems with that version.
First off, no one in Snezhnoe seen or heard the launch. Many locals readily admit seeing a rebel Buk, which is visible from maybe a hundred yards in tight city streets, but not a single person has heard or seen the launch, which should be visible and audible for many miles around:
Something is not right – if the locals are lying, why would they admit seeing the launcher in the first place?
– From a ballistics standpoint, there is a lot of damage to left wing & engine, which should have been out of the way of the fragment stream. That can not be explained by colliding with pieces of the missile itself, as the damage clearly indicates multiple small fragments, i.e. main fragment stream.
Moreover, the close-up images of damage to the cab indicate that the fragments were traveling front to back, not left to right:
And the right side pilot’s window was found undamaged, whereas fragments coming from left side should have shattered it to tiny pieces (that is what the question mark in first picture signifies):
– Therefore, the fragments were flying along the axis of plane like so:
This means the missile didn’t come from the front, but from the side: as mentioned before, the direction of fragments is perpendicular to the direction of missile flight.
Based on the damage fields on the plane (refer to full report for pics) calculated angle of the missile was 72-75 degrees horizontal and 20-22 degrees vertical. Based on known course and location of the plane at the moment of hit, as well as BukM1 missile parameters, direction and distance to the launcher can be determined.
The purported location of the launcher is somewhere in the area of Zaroschenskoe.
What’s in Zaroschenskoe? Well, according to satellite images released by the Russian Ministry of Defense last summer, two Kiev government Buk M1 launchers.
Moreover, unlike Snezhnoe with its 50,000 population, Zaroschenskoe was a village of 350 people, mostly deserted during the fighting, so lack of witnesses of the launch is not surprising.
This is the main point of the report published in Novaya Gazeta.
The rest basically describes why they think it’s BukM1, which sensible people didn’t doubt much (yes, it is technically possible a government fighter like Mig-29 shot down MH17 with a long-range air-to-air missile, but it’s a rather far-fetched scenario).
The only thing left to discuss is the reason for the shootdown. There are basically three hypotheses:
– Training/targeting accident, like 2001 shootdown of Israeli airliner by Ukrainian army under similar circumstances (missile was aimed at target drone, but some other radar was practicing and “painting” the airliner – missile picked the bigger target).
UAF was reportedly conducting anti-aircraft exercises at the time of MH17 shootdown. Basically, training consists of targeting something nearby (normally a civilian airliner as military jets don’t take kindly to being painted with target radar) and going through the launch sequence. The men have been doing this a lot with dummy missiles loaded – this is the first time in at least a decade they had live missiles.
Moreover, the usual failsafe measure would be to switch off the target radar so missile loses guidance – but that would only work if no other Buk is “painting” the target with radar. Considering that UAF had something like a regiment of Buks and multiple targeting stations in the area, plus the rebels may have been practicing as well, that safety measure likely would not work.
– False flag attack. This is going into conspiracy theory territory, but Zaroschenskoe at the time was “no man’s land”, and AA launchers from either side really had no business being there. Of course, they could be there for any number of reasons – ambushing Russian planes at close range, lost their way, etc. – but one reason could be to hit a civilian plane over the rebel hub of Snezhnoe.
– Rebel mistake.
Previously this seemed the most logical, as the shootdown area was heavily bombed at the time and rebels were doing their best to shoot down the attack planes, but ballistics in the NG report look convincing.
Still, it’s possible the rebels had another launcher we don’t know about, somewhere to the side of MH17.
In that case, we can remember that many locals claim they saw a government ground attack plane at the time of MH17 shootdown; while it’s unlikely a SU25 plane could shoot down MH17, someone trying to target it could target MH17 instead. Even if the targeting was correct, if government Buks were training and painting MH17, the missile would very likely pick the larger target.
– So, who’s to blame for the deaths? In all scenarios except False Flag, it’s the war itself, really. It’s not so crucial who was targeting what and who ended up pressing the button; more important is why was a civilian airliner sent though an area of heavy air-to-ground combat in the first place, one that clearly had multiple heavy anti-aircraft systems in the hands of inexperienced UAF conscripts and rebels (both sides announced they’re deploying Buk air defense systems to the area shortly before the tragedy).
And, once we start digging deeper and deeper into the issue, we’ll inevitably come back to the root causes of the war:
– Certain parties misguided belief that an elected government can be overthrown without consequence, and a hostile takeover of the sort that resulted in civil war in Georgia, Moldova, Kosovo, Cyprus, Texas, etc. would somehow be met without protest by the “pro-Russian” half of Ukraine.
– Their opponents misguided belief that the West would not support a government waging an depopulation campaign (yes, forcing a million people to flee the cities to Russia by deliberately shelling power and water stations is depopulation), that Russia will officially intervene on their behalf, or that fighting spirit and some smuggled weapons can beat a real army funded by IMF loans (well, that last one worked – for now – but the rebels have a far harder time replacing their losses).
But I digress, “who’s to blame for the war” is a topic for a separate discussion. Thank you for your time.