The Russians’ new glide-bomb is big. Really big. And not for no reason: a bigger bomb doesn’t need to be so accurate.
The FAB-1500M-54 bomb, fitted with a Universal Gliding and Correction Module—basically, satellite guidance and pop-out wings—weighs 1,500 kilograms. 3,300 pounds.
That’s big. For comparison, Ukraine’s own glide-bombs—American-made Joint Direct Attack Munitions-Extended Range—weigh just 500 pounds.
Fighterbomber, a popular Russian Telegram channel, revealed the new, bigger glide-bomb on Tuesday. “By no means small,” is how the channel described the munition.
JDAM-ERs weigh just 500 pounds because a 500-pound bomb with a couple of hundred pounds of explosives is perfectly adequate to obliterate a basement strongpoint, warehouse, bridge span or some other hard target—that is, given the five-yard accuracy of the GPS-guided American-made bomb.
Fighterbomber claims the new FAB-1500M-54-UGCM is accurate to 15 yards. “We consider these numbers to be exaggerated,” the independent Conflict Intelligence Team stated.
CIT might be right. Russia’s glide-bombs rely on Russia’s rickety GLONASS satellite constellation, which is a generation less sophisticated than the American GPS constellation is.
Hence the bigger bomb, with up to 1,500 pounds of explosives.
To be clear, Russia already had a 3,300-pound glide-bomb: the older UPAB-1500 with built-in wings. But the UPAB-1500 is expensive. The FAB-1500M-54-UGCM combines an existing bomb with a simple guidance kit and equally simple bolt-on wings.
The UPAB-1500 is a boutique munition. The FAB-1500M-54-UGCM is for mass-consumption, according to Fighterbomber. “I think within a month, the industry will arrange their production for the estimated volumes—and they will fly as UMPCs of more modest calibers [do].” Dozens a day across the 600-mile front in Ukraine.
Actually designing such a big glide-bomb took some effort. The FAB-1500 glide-bomb needs a more robust wing kit than do the smaller FAB-250 and FAB-500 glide-bombs—as Fighterbomber pointed out.
And using the huge bomb in combat takes some work, too. The munition is bulky—so much so that a Sukhoi Su-34 can haul just two at a time.
And a favorite tactic of crews dropping glide-bombs—lofting them from a high, fast climb in order to give the munitions a big ballistic arc and extend their range—might require tweaking. A Sukhoi crew may need to pile on the thrust to toss a FAB-1500M-54-UGCM out to its theoretical maximum range of 25 miles or so.
Don’t underestimate Russia’s huge glide-bombs. They might not be as elegant and accurate as Ukraine’s smaller glide-bombs. But with their heavier explosive fill, they are “one of the biggest fears” among Ukrainian troops, according to Ukrainian soldier Olexandr Solon’ko.
“The Russians use them extensively,” Solon’ko wrote. “I can’t speak to their accuracy, but the weaponry is powerful.”