In recent months there has been much to do about radar data which have been provided by the Russian Federation (RF). What was going on again? A brief summary.

Press conference

On 26 September 2016, the RF held a press conference and made their radar images public.  The RF stated that no BUK missile could be seen on these images. 

First findings

Two days later the JIT presented their findings. At that time, the RF had not yet actually handed over the radar images to the investigation team, so all the investigation team could do then was making an initial assessment of the significance to the investigation based on the images shown on TV. The team concluded that the images would not in any way affect the conclusions and results which the JIT was to present on 28 September 2016. If the BUK missile could not be seen on the RF radar images, it did not mean that the BUK missile had not flown there. After all, a radar scans its environment in a circular motion and therefore this environment is not permanently displayed. As a comparison you can think of the way in which a lighthouse illuminates its surroundings. It may be so that the radar was just working on the other side of its scanning round at the moment that missile was launched.


Different format

On 26 October 2016, a couple of hours before the plenary debate about MH17 in Dutch parliament, the Russian government handed over aforementioned radar data to the Dutch authorities. It soon appeared that the data had not been submitted in the ASTERIX-format, which was developed by Eurocontrol. A format that is widely accepted.
In order to be able to analyse the data, the Russian authorities had included software separately without a manual. This software was in Russian so it had to be translated first. After this, the software had to be tested for its functionality as well as its reliability. Working on the translation and becoming familiar with the operation of the software took a lot of time. Only after that, the data could be analysed. The data that had been handed over showed less than if the data had been submitted according to the ASTERIX-format. In other words: if the data had been submitted according to an internationally recognised standard such as ASTERIX, this would have enabled us to guarantee the integrity of the radar system including its subsystems. Internal checks could have been performed and the data could have been compared very well with data from other radar stations. It would have enabled us to gain better insight into possibly additional detection of objects which had not appeared on the radar screen of the air traffic controller, but that would have been collected by the radar system and stored in the subsystems. 

Screenshot of a radarimage

Supplementary request

The OM sent a supplementary request for legal assistance to the Russian Federation with a more specified request to submit the radar data in a format that does allow comparison. In addition, the OM hired external expertise for the analysis of the radar data. 

Furthermore, the OM reminded the Russian Federation of remarks that had already been made on behalf of the Ministry of Defence during a press conference on 21 July 2014 and which refer to the presence of a second radar station that had covered the airspace at the crucial moment. This concerns a radar station in Buturinskaya. In a supplementary request for legal assistance, the OM explicitly requested the radar data of this radar station as well. Until today, the OM has not received any response to this request.

The first request by the OM to the Russian Federation for primary radar data regarding the area Donetsk/Luhansk for the period from 14 July up to and including 18 July 2014 dates from 15 October 2014. Things are not moving fast, but we are progressing, step by step. The OM continues to believe that the Russian authorities should submit material that is relevant to the establishment of the truth. The JIT however will not allow any delays in other investigation activities that may lead to revealing the truth.