International investigators have confirmed that a surface-to-air missile fired at a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER could have avoided detection on radar.
Such a weapon could have simply been travelling too fast for the surveillance processing capabilities of the civil radar station at Ust-Donetsk, the analysis indicates. Ust-Donetsk is located in the Rostov region of Russia.
The joint investigation team looking into the destruction of flight MH17 in July 2014 had enlisted two independent radar specialists to examine radar data from the station supplied by Russian authorities.
No other aircraft were displayed on radar in the vicinity of MH17 at the time of the event, the analysis has found.
The five-nation investigation team had previously concluded that an Almaz-Antey 9M38 'Buk' surface-to-air weapon had been fired from a field near Pervomaiskiy in eastern Ukraine, and destroyed the 777.
While no Buk missile can be detected on the Russian radar images – a fact pointed out by the Russian government, which has put forward alternative theories on the loss of MH17 – the analysis identified several reasons for its absence.
The Buk missile is capable of speeds in excess of 2,600km/h and this supersonic velocity is far beyond those typically being processed by civil aviation surveillance systems.
"Display filters could limit the visibility – this is to avoid clutter on the radar image," the analysis adds. "The consequence is that, therefore, a Buk cannot be seen."
Russian authorities supplied radar data in its original format as well as data converted to the standard 'Asterix' format. Investigators believe there is "no reason to assume" that conversion resulted in the loss of any relevant information, but the analysis nevertheless covered both data sets.
"The findings by these radar experts show that a Buk missile could have been fired from the firing location established by the joint investigation team without it being visible on the radar images," the analysis states.
Investigators had sought data from a second radar station, sited at Baturinskaya, but none has been supplied by the Russian government.
Dutch investigators are to examine the extent to which recommendations regarding overflight of conflict zones have been implemented since the loss of MH17.
The Dutch Safety Board says it wants to compile an inventory of measures taken regarding airspace management and sharing of threat information.
It also intends to examine airlines' risk-assessment strategies – and accountability – when considering overflying conflict zones.