Each Russian Su-34 deploys 4 FAB-500 planning bombs for a mission

It’s quite evident that the Russian Air Force is leveraging the full potential of their Su-34 Fullback fighter-bombers. A piece of photographic evidence, unveiled by the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Defense, presents an Su-34 fully furnished with FAB-500M62 homing bombs attached beneath the wings, two on each side. 

Each Russian Su-34 deploys 4 FAB-500 planning bombs for a mission
Photo credit: Telegram

In recent weeks, though the frequency of Russian assaults on Ukraine employing air-to-surface cruise missiles has seen a decline, there has been a considerable upsurge in the usage of cruise bombs. The fact of the matter is, that the photograph released by Russia’s Ministry encapsulates the analysis of multiple experts stating that plane bombs constitute a significant proportion of the weaponry in Russian fighters. 

Glide bombs, equipped with flight control surfaces, serve as standoff weapons. This indicates that launching these bombs does not require direct vicinity to the target, as is the case with traditional gravity bombs. This helps to limit the exposure of aircraft to the enemy’s anti-aircraft arsenal.

Each Russian Su-34 deploys 4 FAB-500 planning bombs for a mission
Photo credit: Telegram

Difficult to intercept

Glide bombs pose a significant challenge to intercept, owing to their swift flight times, small radar footprint, and unpredictable flight paths. The concern voiced by Ukraine about these deadly weapons of war has proven to be well-founded in recent months. 

Renowned analysts from the ISW think tank shared in their assessment, “In 2024, Russian forces escalated their use of both guided and unguided glide bomb attacks against Ukrainian forward and rear positions. They used mass glide bomb attacks to achieve tactical advantages, particularly noticeable in the seizure of Avdiivka in mid-February.” 

Russia has also made significant progress in understanding how to deploy extensive strike packages strategically, in a way that maximally strains Kiev’s air defenses and their ability to respond. “Given the bandwidth limitations of Ukrainian air defenses, Russia has an advantage in deploying bomber strikes conducted by fixed-wing aircraft,” a defense analyst pointed out. “A more robust air defense system could potentially deter Ukraine from being targeted by glide bombs by keeping the attacking fixed-wing aircraft at a safe distance from the front line.”

Ukraine targeted Su-34

It’s become clear why the Su-34 has been the primary focus for Ukraine in recent weeks. From Ukraine, we’ve heard that a minimum of twelve Su-34s have been downed within a span of 14 to 20 days. The Su-34’s unrivaled ability to deploy planned bombs during aerial raids means Russian pilots can deliver these devices to up to four nearby targets simultaneously. When the target is something of strategic significance, the combined power of four FAB-500s can wreak considerable havoc. 

Each Russian Su-34 deploys 4 FAB-500 planning bombs for a mission
Photo credit: Telegram

The decision to equip each Su-34 with four strategic bombs closely aligns with the recent comments of a high-ranking Russian official. The instructions from Moscow, he revealed, are to annihilate the underground military bunkers in Ukraine. Underscoring the destructive power of these bombs, he added that each one could carry as much as 500 kg of explosives, enough to obliterate the bunkers completely. 

The devastation wrought by these Russian glide bomb attacks is hard to overstate. One soldier likened it to staring into the “gates of hell,” emphasizing that the Russian Air Force “launches two salvos at a time, amounting to eight every hour…It feels like you’re under a relentless aerial onslaught.”

FAB-500 next-gen

Russian FAB-500 bomb fell at 10:30am but detonated at 3:00pm
YouTube video screenshot

As the imminent threat of a potent weapon like the FAB-500 Drel planning bomb looms, Ukraine is preparing to arm itself. Production of this weapon is projected to start before the end of the year. More specifically, upcoming enhancements to some Su-34 fighter bombers in 2024 will largely be due to this new 500 kg planning bomb. 

The Su-34 fighter plane is noteworthy for its extraordinary endurance. It effortlessly outperforms every other global fighter in terms of range, and it also carries payloads akin to those of earlier nuclear-armed bombers rather than modern fighters. 

The Su-34 has been the stalwart in the Russian Air Force amidst the ongoing Ukraine conflict. Western sources currently estimate that around 24 of these have been lost throughout the two-year campaign [excluding the ten that Ukraine claimed to have shot down in February], indicating a rough average of one aircraft loss per month. All recorded losses resulted from accidents or ground-based anti-aircraft intercepts.

Extremely rare close-up photo of the FAB-500 bomb before it was used
Photo credit: Telegram

About glide-bomb

A glide bomb, also known as a stand-off weapon, is a type of precision-guided munition designed to be launched from an aircraft or ship and then glide towards its target. Unlike traditional bombs, glide bombs don’t rely on propulsion after launch. Instead, they use their wings or aerodynamic design to glide toward the target, guided by an onboard navigation system. 

Glide bombs are capable of hitting targets with high precision, which reduces the risk of collateral damage. They are equipped with advanced guidance systems, such as GPS or laser designators, which allow them to accurately hit their targets even from long distances. This makes them particularly effective in modern warfare, where precision is often more important than raw power. 

Russia initiates mass production of 1.5-ton M54 planning bombs
Photo credit: Twitter

Another key capability of glide bombs is their stand-off range. This means they can be launched from a safe distance, allowing the launching platform, whether it’s an aircraft or ship, to stay out of range from enemy air defenses. This stand-off capability significantly enhances the survivability of the launching platform. 

Factors can affect its accuracy 

Furthermore, glide bombs can be equipped with different types of warheads depending on the mission requirements. This includes high-explosive warheads for destroying hardened targets, fragmentation warheads for targeting personnel and light vehicles, and even thermobaric warheads for causing extensive damage over a wide area. 

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

However, it’s important to note that while glide bombs are highly effective, they are not infallible. Factors such as weather conditions, the performance of the guidance system, and countermeasures employed by the enemy can affect their accuracy and effectiveness. Nonetheless, their ability to deliver precise strikes from a safe distance makes them a valuable tool in modern warfare.

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