Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Russian Uragan/Smerch/Tornado team caught on satellite images in Donetsk?

This satellite image from the 19th of June:

shows a Russian artillery team working with an unusual type of vehicle. Some vehicles can be identified as trucks, but others are longer, elongated and small and irregular. These are definitely NOT GRAD rocket systems. They look more like Uragan, Tornado or Hurricane launchers and loaders.

Google maps link.

Let's have a closer look:

Clearly a truck can be seen. Then there is one that looks like a crane or bulldozer with a very distinct shadow as if something is raised up in the air (#1).
The other two vehicles are in a row as if one is towing the other, or it is loading (something like rockets into) the other (#2 and #3).
The little one on the right may either be a jeep or just a car.

The approximate length of #1 (as indicated on the image and by using the Google Earth measuring tool) is some 10 meters.
Length of #2 is some 7 meters.
#3 is some 8,5 meters
(These lengths are a little bit arbitrary, since one pixel is some 0,5 meters at this scale... but still it is an indication.)

This image shows two more vehicles that look a lot like #1:

Measured approximate length:
#4 is 8-9 meters
#5 is either 8 or 11 meters

#6 and #7 both seem to be some 8 meters. The other one is a truck.

For comparison, here are some photos of the different MLRS:

GRAD 122 mm

Uragan/Hurricane 220 mm

Smerch 300mm

Tornado 122/220/300 mm

Wikipedia on GRAD
Wikipedia on Uragan
Wikipedia on Smerch
Wikipedia on Tornado

GRAD is just too small. We know the Russians use 220 mm cluster ammunition, so it must be Uragan/Hurricane or maybe even Smerch. Tornado is the newest system that would replace all of the previous systems. It is unlikely that at this moment they would used the newest toy already. Yet the VERY small launch system that appears to be present on the satellite images may indicate otherwise. It is possible that the Russian use this war against Ukraine as a test-ground for their new systems of course.

Alternative: SAU howitzers
This is how a Russian Howitzer looks like:

These dimensions just do not seem to fit very well.

Obviously when a team like that operates on a location, this will leave distinctive tracks on the ground, which are visible on the satellite images. Have a look at the image from May 7th and you'll see there are no tracks or traces like that:

This is the image from June 19th:

This one from July 21st:

As can be seen, the area has been used much more intense, so this team has been visiting this site more than once.

But scanning the surroundings of this location reveals even more:

There are five to six other locations where the same track patterns appear on the satellite map of July 21st for the first time that look as intensively used as the first one.

UPDATE: Alternative two
An attentive responder to this blog pointed out that what happened above may look like construction work on the power lines!!!
Ok, double check...

Indeed, the first pole seems to be complete renewed and looks silver/white now.

The second pole is completely removed!!!

And more poles are removed. This is the total image:

First one renewed, four poles removed, activity on the last two, but nothing seemed to have happened there.

Ok...!!! My bad. This was construction on the electricity lines. I didn't know they just keep doing that in war time.


On the map of August 9th some little new track appears, but WITH a vehicle:

This vehicle also is between 8-9 meters. But now that the previous vehicles turned out to be from construction work, it is hard to tell what this exactly is. I'll leave it up to you for now...

When scanning the area for such a smaller set of tracks, we can spot two more such locations:

That makes the total map look like this:

On a larger scale:

Red circle = MLRS area
Yellow line is direction to airport - 17 kms

From this firing position basically all of Donetsk can be reached. Donetsk Airport is at some 17 kms distance.

Of course this does not mean MLRS-teams are not active on other dates and other locations as well. They are active all the time. For instance, have a look at this image from Sept 3rd:

Do you recognize something?
Same patterns, same intensive use of the location. This time: no electricity poles nearby...!!!

This location is here on the map:

Such a location can easily be used to fire from a SW direction onto the supermarket, bus station and Red cross area (red lines) where we know attacks have occured, but TO MAKE IT LOOK LIKE if it comes from the Ukrainian held territory of Novomykhailivka.

The distance to these location is 14 kms and more.

In fact, these are all the SW firing positions I have been able to find up to the Sept 3rd map:

Most of them are based on similar unusual track patterns that could be found, but some are based on geolocated videos and photos. The white markers indicate uncertain, very small areas that may have been used by a mortar team or maybe a GRAD.

I am sure that new images of later date will reveal even more positions Westward from these.

Unfortunately I have captured a (rare) case of construction work this time East of Makeevka :D.
Even then it can not be excluded that a single Rocket Launcher (other than GRAD) HAD been recorded on the 9th of August at that location. Two more positions could be spotted between August 9th and September 3rd.

There are enough tracks and patterns that DO show fire positions and artillery activity. Especially when we have the combination of a geolocated video and tracks on satellite images.
From the multiple track patterns like that South up to the South-West of Donetsk we can be sure artillery teams operated from these locations too.

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