ATSB’s Final Search Area Completed. Once Again, MH370 Isn’t There.

Earlier today Malaysia released its latest weekly report into the progress of Ocean Infinity’s seabed search in the Southern Indian Ocean for the wreckage of MH370. Included was the chart above, which shows the area currently being scanned in red. The southernmost portion of this “T” shape is that last part of the 25,000 square kilometer designed by the ATSB as the final search area. Once it is scanned and the data assessed, the search will be over.

Or rather, the statement above should be in the past tense, because the last weekly report showed this small area as already having been scanned. Thus, the ATSB’s final 25,000 square kilometers has already been finished.

You’ll recall that this area was described in the ATSB report “MH370–First Principles Report” as

 a remaining area of high probability between latitudes 32.5°S and 36°S along the 7th arc. 4. The participants of the First Principles Review were in agreement on the need to search an additional area representing approximately 25,000 km² (the orange bordered area in Figure 14) [I’ve added this figure to the bottom of this post–JW]. Based on the analysis to date, completion of this area would exhaust all prospective areas for the presence of MH370. 

If anyone thinks I am hasty in saying that Seabed Constructor has finished its scan of this area, note that as I write, the ship continues to work northwards well beyond this area. If MH370 had already been found, it would not be doing so.

The designation of the 25,000 square kilometers marked the fourth time that the ATSB has assured the public that it had identified the area where the plane had come to rest. Each of the last three times, it was proven wrong and been forced to designate a new place to look. Today, that game ends. The ATSB has admitted that has no further analytical basis on which to recommend any further search. It’s out of ideas. It has thrown in the towel. It is out of ideas.

To be sure, there are some bitter enders among the “MHiste” community who have come up with reasons for searching further beyond the ATSB’s final 25,000 square kilometers, but their theories now lack any official backing, and to my eye are nothing more than hand-waving based on an inability to admit to being wrong. Seabed Constructor sails on like a headless chicken, with no rational basis for continuing to search.

The ATSB’s search areas were defined using data exchanged between the plane and Inmarsat in the hours after the plane disappeared from radar. Their analysis was quite sophisticated; if the data had been authentic, the odds were tremendously in favor of the plane being found.

But the plane was not found. Was this because of an incredible coincidence/bad luck on the part of the ATSB? Or is the case rather that whoever took the plane played them for suckers?

The bitter enders believe that they and the ATSB were the victims of bad luck. The pilot (most likely) took the plane and flew south, but happened to fly in some weird way that by chance produced data that looked very much like what a normally flown plane would produce. This being the case, the plane must be somewhere in the vicinity.

The other explanation is that they weren’t unlucky. They were fooled. By perpetrators who, based on their behavior before disappearing from radar, were both sophisticated and had every intention of misleading and deceiving. Who went electronically dark and pulled a 180 just six seconds after passing the last waypoint in Malaysian airspace, and had the electrical engineering chops to first turn off, then turn back on the satellite data unit that ultimately produced the clues that the seabed search would be based on.

The ATSB, however, has proven themselves constitutionally incapable of grokking that they have been hoodwinked. Time and again, I’ve asked members of the team how they could be so sure that their data wasn’t tampered with. Time and again, they told me that they hadn’t taken the idea seriously. Most recently, a spokesperson for the Joint Agency Coordination Centre emailed me to explain:

The Inmarsat satellite data unit logs were made publicly available at a very early stage of the investigation and the data has been reviewed frequently by the Joint Investigation Team convened by the Malaysian Government comprising experts from the People’s Republic of China, France, Malaysia, United Kingdom, United States and Malaysian Government officials.

Does this explanation justify confidence in the data? I don’t see it.

Over on other blogs, self-appointed experts will continue to spin out elaborate theories and crunch the numbers to generate new convoluted flight paths. They will tell you that the mystery is incredibly complicated and only the truly erudite come hope to plumb its complexities. Actually, the truth looks quite simple to me. The perpetrators of MH370 set out to baffle and confuse, and they succeeded beyond measure. They have played the ATSB and its fan boys for chumps, and will continue to do so. Game, set, match.

UPDATE: Within minutes of my tweeting about this post, Mike Exner laid into me, calling me all sorts of bad names, and saying that Seabed Constructor had lots of high-probability square kilometerage ahead of it. I responded that if he is so confident of the high quality of the area left to search, then he should be willing to make a bet with me: If Seabed Constructor finds MH370’s wreckage in the months to come, I will publicly acknowledge that he was right all along and I was wrong. And if it does not, he will do the same for me.



162 thoughts on “ATSB’s Final Search Area Completed. Once Again, MH370 Isn’t There.”

  1. @Brock,

    At the beginning, your efforts were focused into helping to analyse what little data and announcements that were available.

    Then you changed direction into wanting to hold the search team to account.

    Don’t you think that maybe you can best achieve the latter by concentrating on the former?

  2. @PS9: “Any idea what the RoD for a 777 in a best-distance glide would be?”

    About 2000 fpm.

  3. I have always found the radar information to be lacking as proof for a fly back over Malaysia. I suspect it never actually did.

  4. Did Russia ‘turn off’ the emergency beacon listening capability onboard the Elektro-L1 Geostationary satellite to prevent ELT signal from being heard from MH370?
    According to CNN, 2 satellites in the COSPAS-SARSAT network were capable of picking up any emergency beacon from MH370 in the Indian Ocean: India’s Insat-3A and Russia’s Elektro-L1

    – India’s Insat-3A is located at 93 EAST longitude (Russia/Mongolia/China/India/Burma)but has an ‘inclination’ of 76 degrees, presumably to be closer to India to provide better telecom and broadcast services

    – Russia’s Elektro-L1 is located 76 EAST longitude (Rus/Kaz/Kyrg/China/Pak/India) but with 0 degrees inclination, so it’s right on the equator.

    CNN: Why didn’t Flight 370’s emergency beacon work?

    Adding to the mystery: Hijackers or renegade pilots cannot disable some of the emergency beacons, namely, the ones attached to the plane’s airframe. They are powered by batteries and inaccessible to the crew. So by all accounts, the attached beacon on Flight 370 should have activated if the plane crashed…..
    ….All of the satellites listen for a beacon’s 406 MHz signals and together can identify a beacon’s location to within approximately 3 kilometers, or just under 2 miles.
    If Flight 370’s ELT had transmitted a 406 MHz signal, it “almost certainly would have been picked up by one of the geostationary satellites,” Lett said. Two satellites, India’s Insat-3A and Russia’s Electro-L1, are both parked over the Indian Ocean. It perhaps would have also been picked up by an orbiting low-altitude satellite.
    Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and China all have antennas that monitor the satellites’ emergency transmitter. Some or all of them likely would have received the distress call.
    But authorities say no satellite signals were sent. No rescue was launched.

    Some facts about Elektro-L1, the Russian satellite:
    – launched in 2011 (after tensions began with West)
    – Electro-L spacecraft will function for up to 10 years, collecting weather imagery several times per hour with visible and infrared cameras. The satellite’s position in geosynchronous orbit will yield views the entire Earth disk, allowing its weather sensors to observe storm systems across a wide swath of Asia, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean.
    Electro-L 1 will be parked at 76 degrees east longitude, appearing fixed over a point in the Indian Ocean.
    – The 3,751-pound satellite will also study space weather phenomena and provide communications for search-and-rescue services. It carries nearly 1,000 pounds of scientific and communications equipment. The Electro-L project joins an international network of geosynchronous weather satellites, which includes missions led by the United States, Europe, Japan, China and India.
    – The Russian military will also use data from the Electro-L system

    – MH370 was flown into the Southern Indian ocean, the only area in the world serviced by just ONE Inmarsat satellite. This prevented triangulation of the plane’s position based on the Satcom signals received by 2 or more satellites.
    – MH370 was also flown into probably the only spot in the world’s oceans where a Russian satellite, controlled by the Russian military, was tasked with picking up emergency beacons for Search and Rescue.
    – If the Southern Indian Ocean is the final resting place of MH370, and the perps have Russian connections, then the location was not chosen by accident

  5. @PS9: thank you for your response. Polite responses indicate, to me, character.

    I am still collecting data, and still analyzing it, with the singular aim of helping next of kin find closure, by helping to uncover the truth of MH370’s fate. I am, these days, soliciting information on AEGIS radar assets deployed nearby, with the hope of building a radar coverage diagram more robust than the smattering of fixed installations on which the IG reported. A comprehensive radar coverage map – particularly those which include assets of whose monitoring we can be confident – could help rule out certain paths, and reduce the search area. This research has already rendered ridiculous several paths currently advanced by those among us who trust the ISAT data – and ONLY the ISAT data – to a fault. Currently, I seek the coordinates of the USS Pinckney during the first 2 hours of MH370’s scheduled flight (so, between 17:30 and 19:00 UTC on March 8, 2014). Any info you (or any other reader) may have on actual coordinates for this or any other AEGIS asset would be deeply appreciated.

    I do not consider this research mutually exclusive from rallying support for a public audit of search conduct. We can all agree, I think, that search leadership provided by the JIT during its 3+ years in charge was somewhere between incompetent and fraudulent. An audit would tell us which. That answer would tell us a lot about how best to deploy our resources moving forward: if full disclosure of fuel, ISAT, radar, drift, etc. models and analysis proves the search was, from the outset, conducted in good faith, I will happily join you in analyzing the sparse data, now confident that it is authentic.

    If such an audit fails, and the search remains an exercise in “trust us: we’re from the government”, will you join me in calling BS, and demanding real answers? (If not, then I understand your opposition to an audit: you plan to trust the government no matter how opaque it remains, so why bother fighting for transparency…)

  6. @CliffG, you don’t seem to care to respond to questions, so I put this as much to any reader as to you:

    You suggest that INSAT 3A’s inclination prevents it from receiving ELT signals, but this quote from the Hindu suggest otherwise:

    “INSAT-3A is the only geostationary satellite at present, which is providing Geostationary Orbit Satellite Aided Search and Rescue services (GEOSAR) in this part of the world, covering Europe to Australia in the Indian Ocean and the Australian regions.”

    This map would suggest the same:

    Is it possible that inclination may facilitate downlink to a particular footprint, but not necessarily prevent receiving a signal anywhere in line of sight?

    Additionally, there are several low earth orbit satellites that would have picked up an ELT signal from the South Indian Ocean anywhere east of about E 87.5 and north of S 45. You can find a map of this coverage at the above link as well, farther down the page.

    Regardless of the ability to triangulate a location, if any of these received an ELT signal, we would know it, even if the Russian satellite had gone dark.

    That is not to say that an ELT wasn’t broadcast. Unless we know exactly what ELTs were on MH370, whether they broadcast a signal may be an unknowable question. It seems that the COSPAS-SARSAT system changed its broadcast frequency in 2009, and, what’s more, there appears to be no international agreement that aircraft even need to carry an ELT, let along one broadcasting on the right channels.

    Given that, the lack of signal identification is as likely to suggest that there was no signal to be heard at all (because the aircraft did not crash or because it did but did so on the wrong frequency) as it is due to Russian interference.

    None of which is to suggest, of course, that I don’t think the Russians are quite capable of such things….

  7. @ScottO said
    “Unless we know exactly what ELTs were on MH370″…

    The FI lists the portable and fixed ELT’s maker and part numbers.

  8. @Scott O
    I am not ignoring your questions, but I don’t feel my rebuttals are good enough, so I stay silent and move on to the next thing.

    For what it’s worth, I am keeping a scoresheet of your critiques, which are very good BTW. I learnt a lot simply by trying to answer your questions.

    Certainly, the other satellites in the area would have picked up the signal if it was emitted.

    QUESTION: what if the signal was corrupted by some outside mechanism? 406 MHz is uniquely chosen and dedicated for SAR, but what if that signal was being jammed at the exact time the aircraft hit the water?

  9. @all: I am also trying to compile a database of the flight paths and times of all other flights in the area that night. At least a half dozen made headlines over the years – I need all of those for sure. Plus any other flights folks deems relevant.

    (I know I could use a subscription service, and get these myself, but I have vowed never to take or spend a penny for MH370 research. Thanks in advance to anyone who can send me – or better yet, post here – verifiable data.)

  10. @Scott O
    To your previous question:
    Let’s assume that the Aeroflot shootdown conspiracy theory is true: Russia did intend to shootdown one of its passenger airliners with its own civilians and pin the blame on a nearby Ukrainian Buk crew, then launch an invasion of Eastern Ukraine.
    If the plan had succeeded, Russia would have had international opinion on its side, and the invasion would have gone ahead without much international disapproval. But the plan went wrong, the wrong airliner was shot down and international opinion went against Russia.
    The Russians didn’t gamble on hitting a Malaysian plane, they had simply made a huge mistake in hitting MH17.

    Now if the Aeroflot shootdown conspiracy is false, and Russia did intend to target a second Malaysian plane, then we must consider all that this entails.
    Russia not only shot down MH17 to send a message to the West (again!), it didn’t care about the world’s opinion/anger either, nor did it actually plan an invasion of Eastern Ukraine in the summer of 2014. Plus, the swift and vigorous media reaction from Russia to muddy and distort the true picture of what happened to MH17, and the clumsy and contradictory results of those efforts was part of the plan too.

    On balance of probability, this doesn’t make any sense. It makes more sense that MH17 was hit unintentionally, and so the Aeroflot shootdown conspiracy theory is probably true.

  11. @Scott O

    Here’s an article that describes 406 MHz interference.

    Interferers degrade the performance of the on-board 406 MHz SAR processor (SARP) and reduce the probability of detecting real beacon messages. A few strong interferers (with EIRP higher than 5 Watts) located in an area about the size of a continent can virtually jam the satellites and prevent distress beacons in that area from being located. Unless immediate steps are taken to locate and remove these unauthorized interference transmissions, lives could be lost when strong interferers mask the 406 MHz distress signals [7].

  12. @CliffG, I’ve always found it wildly implausible that a trained Buk crew could have shot anything down accidentally. The weapon operated as part of an organized air defense system that knew exactly where everything was. As with Patriot missiles here in the West, crews are well trained to fire only under very specfic conditions, namely a director order from their superiors. As we known now, but did not appreciate in the summer of 2017, the shoot-down of MH17 was effected by an operation carried out by Russia’s GRU:

    The “clumsy and contradictory results” of Russia’s efforts to muddy the waters are entirely keeping with its modus operandi for hybrid warfare: the idea is not to present carefully constructed (but ultimately contradictable) alternative narrative but to create a flood of them, so that the truth will appear to be just one account among many. I think it is no coincidence that this is exactly what has happened with MH370 as well.

  13. Jeff Wise said:

    “… the idea is not to present carefully constructed (but ultimately contradictable) alternative narrative but to create a flood of them, so that the truth will appear to be just one account among many. I think it is no coincidence that this is exactly what has happened with MH370 as well.”

    Agreed. But apart from that country, maybe there are several other players involved in this game?

    There are contradictory statements and ‘facts’ (and refusals to verify or confirm) that have been released by both the MYG and Australian agencies (and others), which is perhaps why whatever scenario is put forward, something else says that couldn’t have happened.

    Now we’re hearing, for some reason, about ‘secret’ meetings that Mike Exner and Victor Ianello (among others) have attended under the cover of non-disclosure agreements in which statements have been made by the MYG saying the Lido image does not show MH370 at all. That fits with the MYG’s refusal to release the radar data at the beginning – the Lido graphic and the ‘story’ (suggested by inference) of the flight up the Straits wasn’t true, they knew it, and they can say ‘We never said it was’. But it was released in that manner with the knowledge that it would deceive and confuse, and it has, for the last 4 years.

    The question might be asked is: what could possibly be the reason for these secret meetings under NDA’s? What is being prevented from becoming public knowledge?

    And what else was discussed at that (those?) meeting(s)? Are those people who currently have access to the media’s ear being fed a version of this event suitable for public consumption under the apparent pretext of having access to ‘privileged inside information’? Invitations to lunch aboard SC in Perth?

    If so, the reasons behind that might perhaps be a very relevant part of this story.

  14. “… the Lido graphic and the ‘story’ (suggested by inference) of the flight up the Straits wasn’t true, they knew it, and they can say ‘We never said it was’. “

    Well, ‘they’ published Factual Information 1.1.3 which doesn’t need the Lido graphic to document the flight up the Straits.

  15. @Gysbreght said:

    “Well, ‘they’ published Factual Information 1.1.3 which doesn’t need the Lido graphic to document the flight up the Straits.”

    If ‘they’ based the FI assumed path on the same data used to ‘produce’ the Lido image (allegedly from the MY AF in both cases) then it would seem the FI path is, by definition and according to the MYG, not MH370 either.

  16. @Jeff Wise.”I’ve always found it wildly implausible that a trained Buk crew could have shot anything down accidentally. The weapon operated as part of an organized air defense system that knew exactly where everything was. As with Patriot missiles here in the West, crews are well trained to fire only under very specfic conditions, namely a director order from their superiors.”

    An explanation for how it could have been accidental is in the first 7-8 mins here. There was an accompanying article of like theme in AW&ST by Bill Sweetman.

    Roughly, with the tracking radar they were using they would not have known what they were shooting at and they might have locked onto the 777 accidentally. The launcher is not designed to be used without targets being designated by a more discriminating search radar, but in case that has been knocked out this is a fall back. The article addressed this, the podcast not as fully. It is the only system allowing local fire control like this worldwide apparently. Without proper command and control the risks are now obvious if they weren’t then.

  17. @Jeff Wise. Rather off MH370 I know but about the risks of allowing local fire control, there are benefits.
    HMAS SYDNEY was surprised by a German raider in 1941, which firing first at close range, targeted first her fire director and bridge. SYDNEY got off a broadside which missed, or at least did little damage, but was torpedoed and raked with accurate fire from a well prepared and practiced crew. With her fire control system out, her bridge blasted and 2-3 of her 4 main turrets shot up, the 4th reverted to local fire by opening up hatches in her turret and aiming through there. The damage inflicted was enough to cause the raider to be abandoned.

  18. @David, In the aftermath of the MH17 shootdown, views like Sweetman’s became the default. Based on Igor Girkin’s social media claim that the “rebels” had shot down a Ukrainian military transport, it was widely believed in the West that untrained militiaman had gotten hold of a Buk and, because the TELAR lacks the ability to identify different aircraft types, had essentially fired blindly.

    At the time, it wasn’t yet understood that the Buk had come over the border the night before in an operation managed by the GRU. There is no need to spin imaginary scenarios in order to minimize Russian responsibility for the shootdown. Command and control responsibility lies with the regular army, which certainly has the ability to identify targets (and to avoid shooting blindly into a busy commercial airway that a unit has spent hours sitting underneath).

    Of course, one will inevitably hear cries of, “But what would they have to gain from such a heinous act?” That is not an appropriate objection when dealing with Russian hybrid warfare.

  19. Epilogue. SYDNEY sank on her way back to port, all hands lost.
    With the raider, several hundred mines went down which she was on her way to laying.
    Local control.

  20. @Brock:

    “If such an audit fails, and the search remains an exercise in “trust us: we’re from the government”, will you join me in calling BS, and demanding real answers? ”

    Some people might say that BS has already been called by many people, in many quarters, because this whole event doesn’t add up, based on the basis of the information and ‘facts’ given, and the behaviour of the parties involved.

    On your second point, how could that ‘demanding’ be effectively done, practically speaking?

    I agree with and admire the honesty of your good intentions, but absent some catalysing event that gives the parties involved no alternative, why should anyone officially involved change?

    They don’t seem to see transparency as being in their interests at present.

  21. @Jeff Wise. I continued with the epilogue without knowledge of your response.

    I did not mean to give the impression that the Russian commanders in authorising and probably manning the TELAR did not carry responsibility.

    Instead I was aiming to refute your first two sentences, which I quoted.

  22. Brock McEwen refers to “… search leadership provided by the JIT during its 3+ years in charge …”

    Details on the JIT (Joint Investigation Team) are somewhat difficult to find, however, it was convened by the Malaysian Government and it seems to have functioned from about Mar 15 to Apr 6, 2014, a period of 3 weeks. It provided advice, but at no point leadership.

  23. @buyer buyerninety, thank you, I realized that was likely the case immediately after I clicked on “post comment” and will check it out. Nonetheless, wondering how much to trust that information (given what we now understand of the accuracy of the Lido trace) and whether we should believe that the ELT batteries were actually functional (given what we know about the CVR batteries having expired). Apologies if there’s info on this, too, that I don’t recall!

  24. @CliffG,

    Thanks so much for your response, and especially thanks for your original research, which is fascinating, and, I think, has been widely appreciated.

    To be clear, I am questioning what you write not because I dispute any of what you say, but because I find it compelling and thus deserving of more significant scrutiny before embracing it.

    As for the jamming, it’s fascinating to know how little it takes to disrupt the signal, and I don’t think it’s impossible to imagine that happening, even in the open ocean–especially if you imagine the possibility that hijackers might not be martyrs and require an escape and then a recovery vehicle.

    That said, apologies, but I’m still not convinced of the SIO destination.

  25. @ CliffG,

    Regarding your note at 2:34, I think a key is plausible deniability. Would the Russians have had plausible deniability in either case?

    I don’t think we’d publically know for sure that the missile was fired from a Russian BUK in rebel held territory if not for the work the Bellingcat group did in piecing together photos it received via social media of the launcher in convoy on its way to the Donbass.

    Without them, and without confirmation from a Western government source (which you can imagine being withheld for operational reasons) we might still be arguing about who shot down MH17, let alone whether it was intentional or accidental. Rebels weren’t exactly cooperative in all this and only gave investigators full access to wreckage nearly six months after the shoot down.

    Remember that there are many other such instances of Russian government plausible deniability from the recent UK assassinations among others to the Moscow Theater crisis (which also led to the deaths of Aleksander Litvinenko, opposition politician Sergei Yushenkov and journalist Anna Politkovskaya), the Beslan school siege (investigated only by Aleksandr Torshin, now known as the Kremlin-friendly central bank executive who just so happens to be a Trump supporter and an NRA Lifetime Member), and the Moscow apartment bombings, which brought Vladimir Putin to the presidency.

    (Also see how Litvinenko, Yuskenkov and Politkoskaya touched on these last two incidents incidents.)

    As to targeting a second airliner from Malaysia, perhaps it’s not so much sending a message again, but two separate messages that happened to have a common target. Two scenarios, which I’ve mentioned before:

    MH370 is potentially related to either a, the taking of Crimea (an attentional diversion), b, the 1mdb scandal, (a threat on behalf of its own investors and those of its UAE allies) or c, an otherwise not fully illuminated attempt at communication (either demonstrating intention or capability).

    MH17 is potentially related to, a, the 1mdb scandal again or, given the nationality of the majority of passengers, b, the Dutch intelligence services’ probing of Kremlin digital assets including the penetration and exposing (that we know of, but perhaps more) of the hacker group Cozy Bear, which as we now know stole DNC emails and nearly worked its way into US security and military services.

  26. Why MH17 was almost certainly shot down by accident

    Description of the BUK missile system

    When normally fielded, a Buk firing battery consists of:
    – a Target Acquisition Radar vehicle used to acquire potential aerial targets, and transmit their position to:
    – the Command Post (CP) vehicle (… which assigns targets to individual launchers, and computes the engagement)
    – one or more launchers each armed with four radar-guided missiles.
    All three of these systems are vehicle-mounted.

    In a normal engagement, all three would operate as an integrated weapon system, and the crew of the Command Post vehicle are likely to have a good idea of the local air activity.

    However, a Buk launcher can also operate in stand-alone mode. Its built-in radar is normally used to track the target being engaged, but can be operated in a target-detection mode, allowing it to autonomously engage targets that were present in the radar’s forward field of view.

    Although the launcher has its own Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system, this is only able to establish whether the target being tracked is a friendly aircraft. It is the electronic equivalent of a sentry calling out “Who goes there?”. If there is no reply, all you know is that it is not one of your own side’s combat aircraft. Targets that do not respond to the electronic challenge could be enemy, neutral (including airliners), or friendly aircraft whose IFF transponder was not operating correctly or had not been set correctly.

    So the radar would not give you a warning that it was tracking an airliner.

    Why the BUK launcher operated as a Stand Alone, and not as part of a Battery

    “Although most effectively used with a remote radar and command vehicle, each launcher can fire missiles in a stand alone mode….
    The separatists have little infrastructure and would more likely have operated the SA-11 in stand alone mode.
    ‘They may not have access to civil air traffic which would have shown it was a civil aircraft, and they may have decided it was military aircraft whomever would have launched it and therefore decided to intercept it’ – Edward Hunt (JANE’s defense weekly)
    In short, a rebel crew not connected to the layers of information available to a national air defense network would also be more likely to mistake a civilian flight for combat aircraft.”

    New York Times –

    BUK operated by separatists, with (OR without) Russian crew

    “We assess that Flight MH17 was likely downed by a SA-11 surface-to-air missile from separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine. We base this judgment on several factors.

    Over the past month, we have detected an increasing amount of heavy weaponry to separatist fighters crossing the border from Russia into Ukraine. Last weekend, Russia sent a convoy of military equipment with up to 150 vehicles including tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery, and multiple rocket launchers to the separatist. We also have information indicating that Russia is providing training to separatist fighters at a facility in southwest Russia, and this effort included training on air defense systems.

    Pro-Russian separatist fighters have demonstrated proficiency with surface-to-air missile systems and have downed more than a dozen aircraft over the past few months, including two large transport aircraft. “

    Shooting down a Malaysian jet can’t be beneficial to either Ukraine or Russia

    “I cannot imagine anybody on either side of this conflict wanting to take down a Malaysian aircraft. It was not an accident that they were trying to shoot down an aircraft, but they got the wrong aircraft. “

    Richard Clarke – Former National Security Official, on ABC #NIGHTLINE (see video from 5:45)

    Why MH17 was probably NOT the target

    According to Flight radar24, which also monitors live flight paths, the airlines that most frequently flew over Donetsk in that week were: Aeroflot (86 flights), Singapore Airlines (75), Ukraine International Airlines (62), Lufthansa (56), and Malaysia Airlines (48).

    At the time of the MH17 crash there were three other commercial airliners flying in the vicinity.

    Aeroflot was the target, not MH17

    The head of Ukraine’s Security Service says pro-Moscow rebels had planned to shoot down a Russian Aeroflot passenger plane the day of the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 to create a pretext for a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine.

    The separatists’ intention was to down Aeroflot flight AFL-2074 which was en route from Moscow to Larnaca, Cyprus, at approximately the same time and in the same air space as flight MH17, which passed over eastern Ukraine June 17, Interfax-Ukraine quoted Valentyn Nalyvaichenko as saying.

    Why was Aeroflot the target?

    NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is calling on Russia to “step back from the brink” of war in Ukraine by withdrawing thousands of combat troops massed on its border.
    Rasmussen arrived in Kyiv as NATO said Russia had again increased troop levels on its borders with Ukraine to 20,000 and as both the alliance and the United States expressed concern over a possible ground invasion of eastern Ukraine by Moscow in support of pro-Russia rebels. Some sources have suggested that Moscow could send in troops under the guise of “peacekeepers.”

    Russia wanted to launch an invasion of Eastern Ukraine under the pretext of a peace-keeping operation following the shootdown of a Russian civilian airliner that could be blamed on Ukraine (or even Russian separatists). This plan went spectacularly wrong because the BUK missile crew that came to Eastern Ukraine from Russia was not familiar with the territory, and misidentified and hit the wrong aircraft.
    The probability of hitting a Malaysian aircraft was low, while the probability of hitting an Aeroflot was high. But there was no way to distinguish the civilian aircraft without the Snow Drift radar and Command Vehicles.

    The GRU may very well have intentionally sent over an undermanned and poorly equipped BUK crew to provide plausible deniability in the event of an investigation into the shootdown of a civilian airliner, whether Russian OR otherwise.
    But what should be taken foremost into consideration in determining whether MH17 was intentionally targetted?
    – the ‘possible’ signalling of resolve that Russia may be sending with regards to sanctions from the West
    – OR rather the credible assessment of NATO that Russia had massed troops and was planning an invasion of Eastern Ukraine under false pretexts
    The latter is much more significant in the context of the situation.
    And if so, then flight MH370 was targetted (possibly by Russia) in isolation, and the reasons for the diversion and disappearance of MH370 do not apply to MH17.

  27. @Jeff Wise, @ PS9, @David,

    Occasionally I find it useful to look at sources outside the U.S. when it comes to benchmarking Russian motives. This report from the British press highlights, I think, some of the ways that Russians go about creating doubt in situations that it finds beneficial to create a fog:

    “It is now clear that Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said in March. Relations between Russia and England escalated when Western countries announced that they would expel more than 150 Russian diplomats, prompting Russia to take retaliatory with its own diplomat expulsions.

    “Russia also called an emergency meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the hopes of discrediting Britain’s accusations, Reuters reported. Because it was not asked to join an independent OPCW probe, it proposed a collaborative investigation, said the wire service.

    “Russia’s request for a joint investigation received just six of 41 votes. In addition to the U.K., were 14 OPCW members voted against Russia’s motion, 17 abstained, two were absent, and one was unable to vote. China, Azerbaijan, Sudan, Algeria and Iran supported Russia’s bid, Reuters reported.

    “The Delegation to the Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons called Russia’s request “perverse.” It also tweeted that, “It is a diversionary tactic, and yet more disinformation designed to evade the questions the Russian authorities must answer.”

    “The outcome of the meeting satisfied British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson. “The purpose of Russia’s ludicrous proposal at The Hague was clear – to undermine the independent, impartial work of the international chemical weapons watchdog. Russia has had one goal in mind since the attempted murders on UK soil through the use of a military-grade chemical weapon – to obscure the truth and confuse the public,” he said in a written statement.”

    From within, without and any other way they can…

  28. @CliffG, Your arguments falls apart over this: “there was no way to distinguish the civilian aircraft without the Snow Drift radar and Command Vehicles.” The Buk was operating in the context of a multilayered Russian air defense system. Whether or not the TELAR was in contact with a Snow Drift vehicle (they don’t have to be immediately next to each other), its crew was operating within a command structure that has sophisticated air traffic surveillance assets at hand.

    If it fired blindly, it was because those in charge of it chose to fire blindly. But there is no evidence that this is what happened.

  29. @CliffG

    The two closest flights to MH17 when it was shot down were SQ351 and AI113. In fact MH17 was between them;

    In fact the image on FlightRadar24 which shows the last position of MH17 has SU2074 (the Aeroflot flight in question) quite a distance away over Rozivka. I doubt within horizontal firing range of a BUK.

    The Russians are experts and certainly knew what they were aiming at.

    Of course the question is whether they suspected something about MH370 and wanted to send a clear message that it was not be used as a weapon against Mother Russia

  30. @sk999: agreed: we need to hold to account the JACC and the SSWG, as well. Every acronym that drove the search for MH370, really. Please consider our call for transparency and accountability suitably amended. Thank you for pointing out the technicality – it will help sharpen our message.

    Sk999: do you happen to know the general coordinates of the USS Pinckney between 17:30 and 19:00 UTC on Mar.7, 2014?

  31. @PS9: Clearly, I’m no expert in rallying the public to demand full transparency and accountability. I’m merely doing my level best to empirically document why such a demand is necessary.

    If you have any ideas, I’m all ears.

  32. @PS9, You raise a really important point. The IG has managed to establish itself, in the eyes of the mainstream press, as the authoritative “alternative” sources on the MH370 investigation. Whether the ATSB has won them over, or vice versa, they are effectively now an unofficial subgroup of the investigating authorities, functioning as an outreach arm to stifle unwelcome questions.

  33. As Steve Barratt pointed out:
    “The two closest flights to MH17 when it was shot down were SQ351 and AI113. In fact MH17 was between them”

    AI113 was carrying Narendra Modi,the controversial Prime Minister of India, when he had been in office for two months.

    If indeed the BUK was being handled by incompetent jerks who didn’t know what they were firing at, they may well have hit the Air India plane. Then we would probably be discussing Pakistan’s connivance with the rebels.

  34. Jeff Wise said:

    ” You raise a really important point. The IG has managed to establish itself, in the eyes of the mainstream press, as the authoritative “alternative” sources on the MH370 investigation. Whether the ATSB has won them over, or vice versa, they are effectively now an unofficial subgroup of the investigating authorities, functioning as an outreach arm to stifle unwelcome questions.”

    That situation seems to have existed from the DS days when any opinion that diverged from the ‘group’ opinion (as defined by DS) was disparaged and the speaker invited to leave and post their views elsewhere in future. As you experienced. DS seems to have taken very much a back seat, at least publicly, ever since he closed his forum.

    Some questions their admission raises straight away …

    – Why were the MYG even meeting with the IG, and asking for NDA’s, in the first place? What role were the IG expected to perform for the MYG with (or in return for) the ‘privileged’ information covered by the NDA’s? Why has the Lido image only now been revealed as bogus?

    It would seem there’s something not quite right in the state of Denmark in respect of the IG members and those meetings. There’s also Blaine’s visits to meet and be photographed with Victor Ianello and other members, and his visit to SC while docked in Durban (just passing through?), and the invitations to lunch on SC while docked in Perth for certain selected IG members. Expenses paid? – It would be an expensive lunch if travelling specially from the US otherwise.

    – Have the ATSB (and other agencies involved) now realised (hmmm… has anyone told them?) that the radar information that has been provided to them by the MYG AF is bogus, (according to the MYG) and thus the FI report and any decisions/searches based on that data are inaccurate? That would seem to be a major game-changer, a statement from them would be expected as a result. Or did the ATSB and others know the Lido image was bogus from the start and thus why they did not include it in the FI? There are some very valid questions to be answered here. Who wants to email the ATSB and ask?

    Their statement also reopens the possibility of the MYG AF’s original published path of IGARI->VAMPI->GIVAL->IGREX (IGREX at 2.15am) being the actual path taken, as reported in the early stages by Reuters ‘exclusive’ report, and the MYG AF’s early statement of the aircraft being tracked as far as Port Blair before disappearing. Perhaps sometimes early reports can be confused and inaccurate, but also perhaps sometimes early reports are the accurate and truthful responses of officials before the government spin machine wakes up and takes centralised control of the information content and flow.

    I wonder if the wool ball is starting to slowly unravel, with the MYG, for some reason, holding on to the end?

  35. @Brock said:

    “If you have any ideas, I’m all ears.”

    My suggestion was that you might have more success if you reverted to analysing the situation and the data and using that as your lever for transparency.

  36. Can anyone make sense of this supposed new data that VI released on his blog today, via ALSM? It just seems like they’re playing games with all of us, with this coy shadiness all the time. Is anything new here? Or did we already all know about small turns around Kota Bharu and Penang airports?

  37. @Sunken Deal, Good question. This new information doesn’t significantly change our understanding of the primary radar situation–most tellingly, it doesn’t include whatever happened at 18:22, which is the part most shrouded in mystery as well as the most potentially important.

    It does raise, for me, yet more questions about what the relationship is between Mike Exner, Victor Iannello, and the official investigations in both Malaysia and Australia.

  38. @Sunken Deal: “Can anyone make sense of this supposed new data that VI released on his blog today, via ALSM?”

    They finally understand that the airplane was not flown on autopilot. Perhaps some time they will understand that the ‘noise’ in the calculated speeds is due to rounding errors, for instance the primary radar UTC rounded to full seconds.

  39. @PS2: my approach has always been:

    1) compile evidence sufficient to answer the question: ‘should we or should we not call BS on the official search effort?’

    2) as soon as evidence is sufficient, call BS on the official search effort: i.e. force full disclosure by employing [tactics]

    A prior post of yours suggested to me that you felt step 1 was, for many, already complete – but as I said earlier, I do continue to peck away at it (do you, perchance, happen to know the Pinckney’s coordinates during MH370’s first 1 or 2 hours of flight? Or have full flight path data for any of the nearby/publicized flights?).

    It was [tactics] on which I sought your best advice. How to “galvanize” the public to help force full transparency, to use your parlance.

    I appreciate your point about “the more we work on 1), the easier 2) will be”. But if you are ready to call BS (are you?), I expect you agree with me that the general public, once properly informed, will reach a similar conclusion.

    Finally: re: those NOT yet ready to call BS: experience has taught me that those who remain convinced the official search was both competent and genuine have tended – in these online forums, at least – to remain set in their views, even as counter-indicative Exhibits A thru J were presented to them. Whom – in these online forums, at least – do you honestly expect will be swayed by Exhibits K & L? It is for this reason (and others) that I have stopped posting my reasearch and analysis to such forums – it is a waste of my time to submit my work to peer review, when these peers are entrenched into two camps: those for whom no further evidence will ever be necessary, and those for whom no further evidence will ever be sufficient.

    (This is also why even the finding of wreckage in the SIO – if it ever comes – is unlikely to sway many people, as found wreckage is, as Ghislain Wattrelos has observed, a prediction of both a genuine and a faked search.)

  40. @Jeff, For anyone interested, I’d suggest a look at Victor Iannello’s blog or twitter timeline to see how his views of Malaysia–and it’s trustworthiness, to him–has changed over time.

    I’m no investigator, but the question to ask might be, with the arrival of Ocean Infinity did he seem to become less skeptical of Malaysia’s intent? Or another: how staunchly does he defend OI’s integrity and motive.

    Is it possible that OI has hired some people to help it in its search?

    Sometimes the boss buys lunch for those who work for him or her.

    Sometimes paid experts become conflicted by who their payor’s partners are, and their views on those partners become less critical out of, maybe, self preservation.

    Whether that’s the case here, of course, I have no idea.

  41. @Scott O, I don’t think there’s any way to answer that question but it’s worth asking.

    Victor was once very committed to the idea that the BFO data could have been spoofed, and was initially very skeptical about Blaine Gibson’s discovery of “No Step.” But once Blaine started finding lots of pieces he interpreted that as meaning that he must have a real skill at it, and so found less reason to question it (rather than more, as in my case.) Once the flight sim data got into his hands, he no longer had any doubt that Zaharie had to be the perp.

  42. Can’t imagine planting the Sim Data would be difficult to a state player.

    Like the ISAT Data how can they prove the validity & genuiness of the Sim Data?

  43. @Michael John

    I completely agree with your point. How are we sure of the honesty of the data set?

  44. Im putting this here in case Ian ells deletes it from his site. A record needs to be kept, and regardless.


    I can imagine the conversation between you two. It must have gone something like “we have to stop this meddling Stevens somehow, but I and save the (IG) empire, not to mention Dr B’s reputation. I know, said one, l’ll invent some rubbish from magically discovered” new” radar data suggesting he flew above Vmo by hand and even work in a descent near Penang. That will push the fuel consumption figures up through the the roof and force the search area further north. Those idiots will swallow it, I’m sure. Well something drastic has to be done!
    Problem is, I all this smoke and mirrors won’t find you the plane. Just the reverse in fact, the it will guarantee that the plane is never found.
    Rob, you’re banned.

  45. “Ian ells” ?? (Too much warm beer?)

    You shouldn’t worry too much about Victor banning you, he regards you as an
    integral member of his Jeer Squad.

    If you doubt ALSM’s data, why did you leave it to Mick to ask ALSM where
    he obtained it? (Probably, following on from the meeting with the Malays in
    Perth, they ensured he was provided with a partial subset of the radar
    data – {still no altitude estimations from the Malays}).

    Why not make yourself useful and ask him, if he is going to delete a
    couple of anomalous data points, just where they were in time.
    Seems to me that at least one of them was at about 17:50 – which is where
    I’ve had a theory that MH370’s autopilot did a ‘high acceleration maneuver’
    – i.e actioned an ascent.

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