It’s already known how Russia turned FAB-250 into guided bomb

Publicly available photographs reveal the utilization of a racial epithet inscribed onto the FAB-250, a guided aerial bomb deployed by Russia in its recent operations against Ukraine. 

It's already known how Russia turned FAB-250 into guided bomb
Photo credit: UA

This pictorial evidence principally highlights that Russia has not implemented novel technologies to modify the FAB-250 into a guided weapon. Instead, they have simply affixed the same planning and correction modules [UMPC] that were previously integrated with the FAB-500 to convert it into a guided bomb. 

Certainly, this assertion can be substantiated by performing a comparative visual analysis of the guided versions of the FAB-250 and the FAB-500 bombs. 

Su-34 may have 'anomalously dropped' a FAB-500M62 bomb on Belgorod
Photo by VitalyKuzmin

This seemingly minor yet significant visual aspect has been under the spotlight since, hitherto, there was a dearth of tangible information detailing the specific methodology employed by Russia to transform their FAB-250s into guided versions. This revelation gains more importance as the enemy’s widespread employment of such converted weaponry has been evidenced as early as July this year. 

Simultaneously, the actual range within which these bombers can deploy such guided aerial weapons remains to be ascertained. For instance, the distance when Russia initiated the utilization of FAB-250 against air defense missiles for strikes in the eastern region last summer did not exceed a mere 10 kilometers from the frontline. 

The uncertainty also extends to the precise types of tactical aviation aircraft Russia could potentially deploy to drop the FAB-250. It remains ambiguous whether this capability is exclusive to the extensively referenced Su-34 and Su-35S or extends to Su-25 attack aircraft, for instance.

Russian Su-34s bombed pro-Turkish positions in Idlib, Syria
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Disadvantages and advantages of UMPC

In contrast to the US JDAM-ER, the Russian UMPC exhibits several key drawbacks. Initially, the readiness state of a bomber equipped with a UMPC module is only achieved post-launch rather than during the preparation phase. This increases the risk of unexpected complications, especially over Russian airspace. 

Another significant technical limitation of the Russian-winged explosives is directly related to how the FAB-500M-62 “cast iron” mounts are constructed. Unlike the JDAM-ER, these are fabricated as welded monoliths, preventing the removal of the tailpiece for swapping with a control module. 

F-15s/F-16s armed with JDAMs advance to Ukraine to strike deep
Photo credit: Pentapostagma

However, certain specialists have drawn attention to an unequivocal advantage of the UMPC cruise missiles. These weapons can be swiftly transitioned from unguided to guided in field settings. Conversely, the JDAM-ER’s control module’s installation necessitates the specific conditions met in a repair or factory workshop. 

An examination of the UMPC’s remnants revealed that these missiles are equipped with the Kometa-M technology block. This module is specifically designed to obtain satellite signals from either GPS or GLONASS navigation systems, despite any interference from radio-electronic protection apparatuses.

What is an FAB-250 aerial bomb?

The FAB-250, a Soviet-engineered air-dropped bomb designed for general purposes, carries a high-explosive payload of 250 kilograms or approximately 550 pounds. It is principally utilized by the Russian Air Force, the former Soviet republics, and their allied nations. 

It's already known how Russia turned FAB-250 into guided bomb
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The device has gained extensive usage in Third World countries and has seen deployment in numerous conflicts, specifically within the continents of Asia and Africa. The inaugural M-46 model, introduced in the year 1946, was subsequently followed by the structurally reinforced M-54 model in 1954. Both variations were conceived for internal transport within heavy bombers. A more aerodynamic M-62 variant, developed in 1962, was engineered for external carriage on fighter bomber hardpoints. 

Manufactured without a guidance system, this bomb includes a single nose fuse and is consistent with the majority of Soviet aircraft models. It saw significant action during the 1980s in Afghanistan, deployed by both Soviet and Afghan-aligned forces. In more recent times, both Russian and Syrian military aircraft have utilized the FAB-250, predominantly over Syrian territories. Furthermore, it has been employed in Ethiopia amidst the Tigray War, though this requires further citation. 

During the 2023 Russian incursion into Ukrainian lands, Russia retrofitted the FAB-250 bombs with planning and correction modules, or the UMPC, similarly incorporating an Inertial navigation system as the adaptations made to FAB-500 M-62 bombs. The FAB-250 M-62, lighter and more aerodynamically inclined than its heavier counterpart, the FAB-500 M-62, consequently offers less destructive power, yet an extended gliding range, stated to be 80 kilometers. This modification minimizes the potential risk of the adapted bombs to Russian aircraft from Ukrainian Surface-to-air missile systems when dispersed. 

Research conducted by the Institute for the Study of War outlines that the FAB-250, weighing 250 kilograms, possesses an explosive charge of 99 kilograms and can inflict damage within a radius of 120 meters. Furthermore, it holds the capability to annihilate personnel, equipment, and lightweight fortifications.

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