Will MH17 be our 9/11? (12). Again the DSB Report—What the radar saw and what it did not see

In the first piece on the Dutch Safety Board report concerning MH17 the topic was the lack of American satellite data. Apparently not a spectacular issue, but in fact it invalidates the entire investigation. What is the purpose of ‘the alliance’, where is the reward for our slavish following of Washington’s instructions, if the downing of a plane with hundreds of Dutch citizens on board only gets us a reference to ‘state secrets’?
Let’s move now to what is in the actual report, in this case the radar data. First, those of the NATO AWACS planes, which either observed something or didn’t. 

Two AWACS planes were patrolling over Rumania and Poland at the time of the disaster, two countries neighbouring Ukraine. What did they see? 

After having been sent back empty-handed by the CIA as far as satellite information was concerned, the DSB of course turned to NATO to inquire what the AWACS had observed. The reply from the NATO commander in Europe (‘SACEUR’) was that MH17 had been seen until the plane left the area covered by the AWACS. After that no information was obtained that was pertinent to the investigation (p. 44). In the summary following this section, the report repeats, ‘NATO AWACS aeroplanes did not have information pertinent to the investigation’ (Ibid.).

Now obviously the AWACS with their very high price tag have not been purchased to lose sight of a plane over Ukraine when flying over two neighbouring countries. In fact the AWACS planes are so invaluable, the Defense Industry Daily tells us, because their ‘rotating radar and on-board computers provide a complete aerial picture in a radius that encompasses hundreds of thousands of square miles’. In other words, MH17 should have passed well beyond the Ural mountains, and be somewhere over eastern Siberia, before the AWACS really lost it.

That SACEUR takes the DSB for a ride in this matter is (again) confirmed by the replies of the German federal government to questions of the Left party on 9 September 2014 (document 18/2521 Deutscher Bundestag).

Question 12, Is there information from AWACS radar planes at the relevant date?
Reply, yes.
Question 14, Have these planes picked up any radar signals pointing to anti-aircraft, air-to-air or other missiles that may have hit MH17?
Reply: Yes, a non-identified radar signal and a signal of an anti-aircraft missile of the type SA-3.

Assuming the ‘unidentified’ signal is a plane with its transponder switched off (otherwise there would also have been secondary radar identifying it), we must assume this was a military plane, or a hijacked one (as on 9/11). A Buk-launched missile is actually an SA-11 (see report p. 132), so the AWACS saw a totally different missile. In his still relevant MH17—De Doofpotdeal (in Dutch, pp. 128-9), Joost Niemöller writes that the German government in fact passed these data on to the DSB, but the report only cites SACEUR: we haven’t seen anything.

Luckily other radars were operational as well. To begin with, the Russian radar. The Russian military in their first press conference asked Kiev to explain the presence of a military plane close to MH17, as well as demanding the location of their air defence systems operational at the time of the disaster. But let’s stick to the DSB report.

This castigates the Russians because they did submit the primary and secondary radar data (‘primary’ means the echo results of large objects, ‘secondary’, the transponder signals), but only in the processed form, that is, after the computer has turned the data into a picture; the raw data are missing, according to the Russians because ICAO rules only require them to be kept for their own territory; according to the DSB these rules actually do not differentiate as to territories. The report makes an issue of the lack of raw data (p. 39) and castigates the Russians for it (p. 167).

How about Ukrainian radar? They have not observed anything, because civilian radar had been turned off for scheduled maintenance, and military radar had been switched off because there were no military planes aloft (p. 38).

It is all possible. As the philosopher, Bertrand Russell, once said, it is possible that a teapot is in orbit around the planet Jupiter, except that it is not very probable.

When one thinks back to those days, when NATO and Ukraine both feared that Russia might intervene militarily (report, p. 188), and which incidentally was one of the probable causes why Kiev had rolled out its air defences (the rebels do not have planes), will understand that it is at least strange to switch off civilian radar for maintenance and military radar because there was supposedly no Ukrainian military plane in the air.

However, the report pays no further attention to that, although it debates extensively whether MH17 was perhaps hit by a meteor, what the weight of the plane was, whether the crew was in hood health, and so on and so forth. In fact the Dutch government should return this report to its authors and ask them to do their homework all over again.

Kees van der Pijl

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