Russia is winging its dumb bombs just before a combat flight
In early 2023, Russia began a significant transformation of its aviation arsenal, equipping its conventional bombs with wing kits, thus converting them into sophisticated, controllable devices. This move, which has significant implications for Ukraine’s Armed Forces, has caught the attention of journalists worldwide.
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Despite not matching the technological prowess of America’s JDAM, as reported by The Warzone, Russia’s UMPK is becoming a key component of their forces. The increased usage of these bomb wing kits is emerging as a daunting challenge for Ukraine.
The first reports of UMPK usage surfaced on January 4, 2023. By April 4, the Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson, Yuriy Ihnat, confirmed that Russia was deploying as many as 20 gliding bombs daily, launched from Su-34 fighter-bombers and Su-35 fighters.
UMPK-equipped bombs present a unique threat due to their evasion capabilities. Unlike cruise missiles, these bombs have a unique signature and follow an acute gliding trajectory, making them nearly impossible to intercept. UMPK kits offer a cost-effective solution to transform conventional bombs into controllable devices. The project, which was first showcased by Russia in 2002, was initially designed for the large FAB-500 bomb. While the project seemed dormant for a while, the onset of war against Ukraine prompted Russia to commence production of these wing kits. They are now being deployed with alarming regularity.
No factory installation
The UMPK kits, unlike their American JDAM counterparts, do not require factory installation. They can be installed directly on the airfield before a combat flight. Although the UMPK is not a fully developed device and appears to be handcrafted at present, it has proven effective enough to pose a real threat to Ukraine’s defenders.
Interestingly, the UMPK comes with its own set of risks for the users. The bomb is activated upon separation from the aircraft, whether intentional or accidental. There have already been instances of accidental bombings in Belgorod, Russia, which fortunately did not result in explosions, potentially due to the absence of UMPK kits.
The UMPK likely extends the bomb’s range to approximately 70 km, similar to the JDAM. However, the actual range depends on the altitude of the aircraft at the time of launch.
The acute trajectory of the UMPK bombs makes them virtually immune to interception, akin to ballistic missiles. These kits constitute a formidable weapon, enabling Russia to strike at Ukraine from a safe distance, thereby enhancing its strategic advantage.
What is UMPK and how does it work?
The Russian bomb kit named UMPK is a modular system designed to convert conventional bombs into smart bombs. It consists of a guidance kit, a control unit, and a power supply. The guidance kit includes a GPS receiver, an inertial measurement unit, and control fins that attach to the bomb’s tail.
The control unit is responsible for processing the guidance information and sending commands to the control fins. The power supply provides electrical power to the guidance kit and control unit.
The UMPK is designed to be compatible with a wide range of conventional bombs, including free-fall bombs and guided bombs. The guidance kit can be installed on the bomb in the field, without the need for specialized equipment or facilities. Once installed, the UMPK allows the bomb to be guided to a precise target location, even in adverse weather conditions or in the presence of GPS jamming.
The UMPK uses a combination of GPS and inertial guidance to navigate to the target. The GPS receiver provides position information, while the inertial measurement unit measures the bomb’s velocity and acceleration. The control unit uses this information to calculate the optimal trajectory for the bomb to reach the target.
The control fins are then adjusted to steer the bomb along this trajectory. The UMPK can be programmed to guide the bomb to a specific target location or to follow a pre-defined flight path.
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