The Russian military is dropping up to 20 guided bombs daily on the Ukrainian positions in the frontline areas, said the spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force.
“Enemy aircraft are active. The enemy is deploying guided bombs, which can travel dozens of kilometers (up to 70).
“The enemy deploys 10–15, and up to 20, such bombs each day along the entire line of contact dropped from Su-35 and Su-34 jets outside the range of our air defense systems.
“This is a threat to us, and we have to respond to it urgently,” said Yurii Ihnat, spokesman for the Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
He further said that, as of present, the Ukrainian military lacks the equipment that would enable its forces to respond to this threat effectively, noting the need for Patriot air defense system and advanced warplanes to keep the Russian fighter jets away.
“To push those jets further away from our borders, we need long-range air defense systems like Patriot, as well as modern multi-purpose fighter jets,” Ihnat said.
In recent months, Russia has ramped up its use of guided bombs, particularly the modified FAB-500M-62 bombs, believed to have been equipped with an aerial guidance kit called Modul Planirovaniya I Korrektsi (MPK), or “gliding and correction module.”
Russian Guided Bombs
In early January, an image surfaced online, shared by the pro-Russian Fighter-bomber Telegram channel, of what appeared to be a FAB-500M-62 bomb with a mysterious wing kit attached to it, reportedly loaded onto a Russian Su-34 Fullback combat jet.
At the time, netizens compared the munition seen in the image with the US’ Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) family of precision-guided bombs, which the US has provided to the Ukrainian Air Force.
This wing kit appears to comprise of two removable main wings and a pair of horizontal stabilizers fitted to an elongated metal assembly attached to the bomb. It seems crudely built, suggesting a design focused on rapid, low-cost production or a more localized unit-level field modification.
While the design of the rear stabilizers may suggest that they can move up and down, it is unsure if they could course correct. That said, the main wings may have some flexibility of movement, but it is unclear if that is the case from the above available image.
The Russian company GNPP Bazalt is known to have developed wing kits for various types of unguided bombs, including the FAB-500M-62, with and without associated guidance systems. These wing kits are called Modul Planirovaniya I Korrektsi (MPK), or “gliding and correction module.”
As EurAsian Times discussed earlier, these wing kits could enable the Russian aircraft to deploy the bombs from a standoff range at a relatively low cost, allowing the Russian pilots to stay outside the areas covered by Ukrainian air defense systems.
Operationally, this weapon may be most effective when released at high altitudes to offer as much glide range as possible.
This could enable the Russian fighter pilots to launch the weapon dozens of kilometers away from their targets, offering them a certain amount of survivability that has not existed without precision standoff munitions so far.
This is becoming increasingly evident from recent remarks by the Ukrainian Air Force command spokesperson Ihnat.
For instance, on March 24, Russian Su-35 jets attacked Ukraine’s northeastern Sumy Oblast with 11 guided bombs, according to the Ukrainian Air Force command.
Russian troops launched a guided bomb attack on Bilopillia, Sumy Oblast, in the early hours of March 28.https://t.co/L3k7XHj0C7
— The New Voice of Ukraine (@NewVoiceUkraine) March 29, 2023
“It is an extremely big threat when guided air bombs, gliding bombs, can fly far and the aircraft do not enter the kill zone of our air defenses,” said Ihnat, shortly after this attack.
Russia Using These Bombs Since Last Year?
Reports of alleged Russian use of FAB-500M-62 bomb equipped with aerial guidance kit began shortly after the Ukrainian military reportedly began using the US-supplied JDAM bomb on Russian-held positions in the Bakhmut region.
Reports of the Ukrainian military using JDAM bombs began emerging around March 10. On March 12, an unexploded ordnance was found on one of the streets of the Kuibyshevsky district of Donetsk.
Russian Aerospace Forces have begun using new high-precision glide bombs.
Unexploded FAB-500 aerial bomb was found in Donetsk with a new control and correction unit. pic.twitter.com/ve36tCBO88
— Clash Report (@clashreport) March 12, 2023
However, reports suggest that the Russian military has used this weapon since October 2022. However, using the old FAB-500 bombs equipped with a new aerial kit did not attract much attention, and its effect was attributed to other munitions.
For example, the Fighter-bomber Telegram channel said on February 22, 2023, “for four months now, bombers, fighters, and long-range aircraft have been operating with guided weapons from distances inaccessible to enemy air defense,” which appears to be a reference to the modified FAB-500 bombs.
“Separately, I clarify our JDAM, which we call UMPC. It is used almost every day, many times a day, and not one bomb at a time. Hundreds of bombs have already been dropped from the UMPC. Of course, it has flaws because it is essentially made on the knee,” the Fighter-bomber channel further said.
The “flaws” mentioned by the Fighter-bomber channel seem to reference the general lack of strike accuracy of these bombs, as noted by Ihnat, who stressed that these Russian bombs usually are not very precise and thus pose a great threat to civilian facilities.
Because FAB-500 is an unguided air-dropped bomb, to begin with, and it is equipped with a high explosive warhead, the bomb is designed to have a broad area effect through blast overpressure and fragmentation of the casing.
A video of Russian aerial bombs (presumably FAB-500 with УМПК – unified planning and correction module; Russian version of JDAM) being dropped on the frontline city of Vuhledar in the Donetsk Oblast of Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/Y4mENfhqFs
— Status-6 (@Archer83Able) April 4, 2023
Therefore, this weapon would be most effective against area targets such as Ukrainian trench lines, other fortification networks, and areas with large concentrations of Ukrainian forces.
The Russian military also has a large stockpile of the FAB-500 bombs, which makes it possible to equip them with wing kits in large numbers at a fraction of the cost that goes into making other advanced precision-guided munitions.