The surface-to-air missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, a Boeing 777, belonged to the Russian armed forces,  the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) said May 24.

In an update to its long-running investigation into the shooting down of the 777-200ER over Eastern Ukraine in July 2014, the JIT said that the Buk (SA-11 “Gadfly”) missile transporter erector launcher and radar (TELAR) vehicle which fired the missile belonged to the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile brigade, based at Kursk.

The JIT was able to track the TELAR vehicle’s route from Kursk to a city near the Ukrainian borders before the shoot-down, as well as its return back across the border post-engagement, using imagery and video posted online.

The JIT said that several key characteristics of the Buk used in the shoot-down were unique based on imagery of numerous different Buk TELARs it had analyzed.

An independent group of investigative journalists, called Bellingcat, had already come to the same conclusion and also named the 53rd brigade in February 2016.

Investigators are now asking for information about who formed the crew of the TELAR vehicle, what instructions they had been given and who was responsible for the deployment.

The JIT also displayed two parts of a Buk missile found in Eastern Ukraine. The venturi—a part of the rocket motor exhaust and part of the casing were publicly displayed. Investigators have asked for more information about a series of numbers and inscriptions on the two components.

Fred Westerbeke, the Netherlands chief public prosecutor, said that significant steps had already been made in the investigation and that of 100 persons of interest in the investigation, the role “of a large number of them is much clearer,” he told journalists.

“It can damage the investigation and the ultimate legal procedure if we make it clear to those responsible for this event—and those further involved—how much we know exactly.”

He added that the JIT was now in the “last phase of the investigation,” but he could not say  when the case would ultimately come to court, although any case would be tried in the Netherlands because most of the 298 people onboard, all of whom were killed, were Dutch. The aircraft was enroute from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Russian authorities have so far provided no information about the activities of the Buk TELAR or personnel involved in the shoot-down, Westerbeke pointed out.

 Tony Osborne, tony.osborne@aviationweek.com