More Mishaps for Russian Military: A Missile Factory on Fire

Assessing the damage to the Krasmash missile factory in Izhevsk, Russia

(Source: @Landriukaitis/DFRLab via Google Maps, background; @shadenFM/archive, left)

On April 26, 2019, among the recent spate of Russian military mishaps, the Krasmash factory, which produces the country’s most advanced military-grade weapons, reportedly caught fire.

The Russian military has recently encountered a number of large scale incidents. The accidents vary in nature, from puncturing the deck of their only aircraft carrier in late 2018 to the loss of a secret nuclear-powered submarine in July 2019. August 2019 has been especially rough to the Russian military, as it failed to launch a nuclear-propelled missile that reportedly contaminated a large area near the accident site with radiation and it also suffered a small number of large explosions at an arms depot in Achinsk. A similar incident took place in Izhevsk earlier this year, when a missile factory producing top notch military equipment caught fire.

A map with all the recent pinpointed Russian military mishaps. (Source: @LAndriukaitis/DFRLab via Alamy)

Media reports and civilian-captured videos and photos started to surface the day of the accident, April 26. The incident would have been far less notable if not for the type of weaponry that the Krasmash factory produces. The factory reportedly makes the new Russian hypersonic RS-28 “Sarmat” intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) (which carries the NATO reporting name of “SS-X-30 Satan 2”), the same weapon that Putin leveraged to threaten the United States in March 2018. According to some sources, the Sarmat missile was planned for deployment in May 2019.

Even though reports claimed that the parts of the complex producing the ICBMs were unaffected by fire, they did so without evidence. No follow-up media reports have been made after the accident either. The DFRLab examined available open-source data and assessed the damage to the complex.

As the fire swept through the Krasmash factory complex in Izhevsk, on April 26, locals took pictures and videos from the ground, making this analysis possible.

https://twitter.com/ShadenFM/status/1121772100946223105

Various social media accounts posted imagery from different angles of the complex, simplifying the geolocation of the area. The DFRLab confirmed that the fire broke out in the southwestern part of the factory.

Geolocation confirmed that the video was taken in Izhevsk and that the fumes were rising from the area of the Krasmash factory. (Source: @shadenFM/archive, top; Google Maps, bottom)

Photos and videos did not clearly show the source of the fire and the thick black smoke covered a large portion of the complex. Daily satellite imagery, however, allowed for identification of the affected area. A small area in the southwest of the complex burned down completely.

Comparison of Planet.com satellite imagery from April 25 (left) and April 30 (right). The pink and blue lines show the main change, a warehouse burned down in the fire. (Source: Planet.com)

The purpose of the destroyed area was unclear, as no reliable analysis of the factory itself was found online, though it resembled a warehouse. Open satellite imagery clearly showed that only a small fraction of the complex, roughly 24,000 square meters, was affected and that the parts of the factory responsible for the production of the Sarmat missile remained operational.


Lukas Andriukaitis is an Associate Director with the Digital Forensic Research Lab.

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