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Damage reconstruction due to impact of high-energetic particles on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 (U)


Publisher: TNO
Place: Rijswijk
Identifier: 529017
Report number: TNO 2015 M11094
Keywords: Fragmentation · Accident investigation · Impact · Observation, Weapon & Protection Systems · WS - Weapon Systems


The Dutch Safety Board (DSB) investigates the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 which occurred on Thursday July 17, 2014 in the Donetsk region (Ukraine). The DSB wants to provide a clear picture of the cause of the crash. A possible cause is fatal damage to the aircraft due to detonation of the warhead of a guided weapon. The DSB concluded the following in their initial report on the crash of flight MH17: “the damage to the forward section of the airplane seems to indicate that the airplane is perforated by a large number of objects with high energy originating from outside the airplane” [1]. A fragmenting warhead contains such objects or particles. The damage pattern caused by the impact of the particles depends on the position and orientation of the warhead relative to the airplane at the moment of detonation, as well as on the inherent properties of the warhead itself. The research question is which characteristic warhead properties are able to cause the observed damage? The DSB want to have this questions answered with aid from experts from the National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR), the Netherlands Ministry of Defence and TNO. TNO proposed a statement of work for the reconstruction of the damage pattern, by conducting a combination of damage analysis on the airplane wreckage and simulation of the physical, terminal ballistics performances of the warhead [2]. Subsequently, the DSB assigned the damage pattern analysis and the estimation of the point of warhead detonation based on the recovered parts of the airplane [3]. The findings are considered a subject matter expert judgment. The purpose of this investigation is to determine the most probable detonation point of a typical fragmenting warhead, in order to find the circumstances by which the observed damage is reproduced in the best possible manner. Starting point is a warhead containing high explosive material and preformed fragments. This study uses classified data as meant by the Wet Bescherming Staatsgeheimen (state secrets act). The text of this report is inspected and released for publication by the Netherlands Ministry of Defence. Chapter 2 provides the study plan of this investigation. Chapter 3 contains the damage pattern analysis after inspection of the airplane wreckage. Chapter 4 contains the set-up of a terminal ballistics simulation to reconstruct the damage pattern. The damage patterns from the visual inspection and the simulation have been compared with each other in Chapter 5, in order to estimate the detonation point. Chapter 6 contains the conclusions.