Oct 29, 2013

Impact Site Analysis

If this is your first time here, I recommend starting from the conclusion page.

This post estimates the direction of the rocket trajectories, by analyzing the impact sites in Zamalka. 

Impact Site 1

This impact site has a rocket dug into the ground which was investigated by the UN, and which they believe was undisturbed. The UN visit to the site is well documented (Video 1Video 2Video 3), and seen in this photo:

This location was accurately identified here
The video below shows the rocket from several directions, and it is clear its angle with the wall is 60-70 degrees:

A few screenshots:

Drawing a 60-70 degree angle to the wall on a satellite image gives us a northern trajectory (The red trajectory is what the UN mistakenly reported).

Impact Site 2

This site was matched to a location 100 meters east of site 1. This photo of the site (and more here) clearly show the crater is oriented at a right angle to the plough lines:

Placing this on the satellite image gives us another northern trajectory:

Impact Site 3

This site is a direct hit to a building, examined by the UN investigators in the following video:

At minute 1:40 we see the impact hole at the northern wall and no signs of an angled impact. At minute 1:28 a shadow line is seen, indicating sunlight is coming from behind and slightly to the left. In this video the team is seen exiting the building from the other side. At minute 2:11 shadows are seen on a balcony in the background:

These confirm the angle of the sun as coming from behind and slightly to the left of the impacted wall (which is on the opposite side).

Based on the UN report (Page 26) this visit occurred at August 29th 13:35. Since the sun at that time was at South-South-West, this means the balcony is facing north, and providing us a third indication of a northern trajectory.

Conclusion: The rockets were launched from a location north to Zamalka.


  1. As the Devil's advocate, I have to ask whether the impacted azimuth is the same as the flight azimuth. I also question the entire scenario of a missile exploding above ground to then impact on the same trajectory.

    We have the situation where there are no obvious cargo cannister remains in the immediate vicinity (please feel free to correct me). This indicates the missile detonated a some distance from the final impact point.

    Firstly, it's a bit of a stretch to assume the propulsion part carries on in the same trajectory after a mid-air explosion and expulsion of a significant part of the payload. For one thing it will move the CG backwards and make the missile unstable. What angle it eventually hits the ground would appear to be semi-random.

    The more important point is why a missile carrying a liquid CW agent would be detonated in mid-air? Optimal dispersion of the CW agent is usually done at ground-level (Kastenza talks about this).

    At this stage your WP theory is a better match than a CW theory - ignoring the final ground azimuth.

    1. In this video I clearly see remnants of the cargo cannister very close to the rocket. I guess you're right: this indicates that the cannister explodes on impact, not in mid-air.

    2. I'm afraid I didn't make myself clear.

      My view is that these rockets did detonate above ground - perhaps with a prox fuse.

      I have seen previous images of split cargo cannisters where they opened up like a banana. I haven't seen any in the Ghouta reports.

      Your sample shows a short segment of what could be part of the cannister, but the substantial part is missing and the previous examples split longitudinally - i.e. long segments, not short like here.

    3. The UN report has a case of the canister exploding on a roof, leaving the familiar stripes and other warhead components behind while the body penetrates the room below.

      I don't see how the booster charge will change trajectory. It can maybe rotate the rocket a bit, but won't change the direction - there's too much momentum for such a small charge (remember how much fuel we burnt to get this momentum).
      This could somewhat reduce the reliability of Impact Site 1, but not of 2 and 3.
      And in any case, the charge is designed to push the payload in all directions, so it shouldn't have a significant sideway effect.

    4. It doesn't necessarily change the absolute trajectory, but it may well cause the missile to tumble and stick in the ground at some angle.

      It's no longer a lawn-dart for sure.

      As a secondary point, assuming an impact detonation model or a prox detonation, any nose-cone would be in/around the impact crater. We have seen no evidence of any nose-cone debris , so it's highly likely there is no nose-cone.

    5. Proximity fuzes are difficult to manufacture with consistent and precise triggering heights. Specs are often in ranges, e.g., 15m - 30m with a probability of say 95%. That would be a modern (and expensive) French or U.S. one for an air-dropped munitions. Large mortar rounds or smaller artillery rockets use something far cheaper and would have a wider range or less probability of firing in a given range. Failure rates are substantial.

      If the SAA is building these things by hand using their old Grad motors, then they may be using old proximity fuzes scrounged off something else. They may intend for all these to be aerial-burst, but their proximity fuzes are unreliable. As a back-up, proximity fuses are often made with a trigger on impact function. The apparent ground-bursts may just be the consequence of a failed proximity-sensing trigger.

      Have there been any liquid-filled versions of this where the nose charge did not detonate and is still attached to the canister?

    6. Charles - I agree that the lawn-dart estimate is not as reliable, but the other two should not be affected by rotation. Impact site 2 specifically has strong indications of the momentum, besides the rocket's angle.

    7. Paveway - Not that I'm aware of. Keep us posted.

  2. sasa,

    Regarding the second ghouta missile image. As you point out the tube is bent at around ground-level. This indicates to me that it was spinning longitudinally when it hit so the front part embedded and stopped while the rear part kept on spinning and produced the bend.

    This tends to indicate an in-air explosion rather than impact detonation. It also indicates a pretty savage spin with a lot of stored rotational energy.

    A lawn-dart strike would have very little rotational energy and no subsequent bending moment - as seen on the other ghouta image.

    1. Interesting observation. It indeed indicates strong sideways momentum, but I don't think it has to be prior to impact. It could happen from the rocket to hitting at an angle to its trajectory. But I agree that an above ground explosion is a likely cause for such an angle.

  3. sasa - I wanted to get this comment down before getting distracted again. You did a great job catching the factual error and omissions in the UN report regarding back-azimuth claims.

    The UN report's mistake is disturbing considering they repeatedly emphasize a sense of certainty and precision in their azimuth measures. Those precise measurements call attention to themselves. I can't believe the inspectors themselves attached much significance to the precision of that measurement. These are smart guys, but not ballistic experts. I expected them to measure the angel, but not draw conclusions from it. They mentioned a much more general and appropriate north-westerly direction in the body of the report.

    The appendix describing 'precise' compass directions accurate to a degree seemed incongruent; almost like it was intentionally re-written by 'management' to support the regime-sourced view. Its kind of funny now that the measurement appears to have been that of the wall, not the rocket azimuth.

    I spent some time searching for other sources on the internet that noticed the obvious discrepancy from what was pictured. There's almost nothing except for some comments on Site #2. Unless I'm reading the report wrong, it seems the UN did not inspect or sample anything from that site. Odd, since it was only 100m away and got a lot of attention on the internet.

    From what I can tell, they sent one team to the apartment roof and the other team to your Impact Site #1. They really didn't have time to do much, but you think they would have at least dropped by #2 and took a few samples since they were so close.

    In any case, you seem to be almost alone in pointing out the bad azimuth. Good work.

    1. Thank you!

      I completely agree with your "management re-write" theory. When you consider Sellstrom's later statement that "the quality of sarin was higher than Iraq" (while neglecting to mention Iraq never succeeded in producing high-quality nerve agents), it is obvious he's up to something.

  4. That's an incredibly crappy analysis, the rocket does not hold a right angle to the plow lines, and even then the plow lines do not hold a right angle to the north!

    "Oh yeah I think this looks like it could be a right angle and this is almost a right angle and voila, a line straight to the north!"

    If the rocket held a right angle to the rightmost plow line, you could see it clearly, this is not the case, imagine the fuselage shifted away from viewer's point of view and you will see that is actually closer to 90°, there will be less fuselage crossing over with the line.

    1. There was no claim that the plow lines go exactly east-west, just that the impact is perpendicular to the plow lines, and that's how it's drawn in the image.

      There are more images here:

      It indeed seems that the impact is not exactly perpendicular, but only by a few degrees. This actually makes it point more directly to the north.

      Let me know if you find anything else. Thanks!

  5. Impact site 2 proves nothing, in my view. It might even literally point to an attack from the south. What you call a bend in the projectile from inertia, I see as the projectile having flipped after impact in a clockwise direction, with its head stuck in the ground. I think this interpretation is confirmed by the pile of rubble under the projectile's tail - indicating the ground was kicked up by a launch from the south.

  6. Cancel that! I was rash. I see that's precisely your analysis!

  7. Would like to add my appreciation of the many hours of hard work put in here to get to the truth of this story which is still it seems part of the information war being waged by many. Unfortunately the story often gets a wider audience than its careful refutation. History benefits but the forces of disinformation have already moved on.
    Specifically would like to know what if anything exonerates or fails to exonerate Turkish involvement in some form with the opposition group that did launch the gas.