Science

Russia Using Poor Man’s ‘Dumb Bombs’ to Kill Syrian Civilians

By | Jun 09, 2017 10:47 PM EDT
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Poor man's weapons

An Su-34 drops OFAB high-explosive, fragmentation incendiary dumb bombs in Syria. (Photo : VKS)

The ugly and ungainly Sukhoi Su-34 fighter bomber continues to rain down cheap gravity bombs (or dumb bombs) on anti-Assad forces and innocent civilians in Syria for the simple reason the cash-poor Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) can't afford to unleash hugely expensive guided bombs and missiles on ragtag rebel fighters.

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The Su-34 was the first VKS aircraft to bomb Syria when Russia's involvement in the Syrian Civil War began in October 2015. The aircraft has remained in Syria since, with anywhere from four to eight deployed at any one time at the Hmeimim Air Base, Russia's largest in that country.

Russia, however, only had 103 Su-34s at the end of 2016, a paltry number for an aircraft that's been the subject of massive propaganda on Russian state-owned media extolling the large number of bombs indiscriminately dropped on U.S.-backed rebels led by the Syrian Democratic Front -- and on civilians supporting these rebels.

Which brings us to the bombs themselves. These have overwhelmingly been dumb bombs of the type unleashed during World War II.

Russia's reliance on unguided, freefall bombs means the discredited tactic of "carpet bombing," or saturating a target with bombs, is the only worthwhile tactic for these unsophisticated weapons.

Apart from conventional high-explosive bombs, Russia routinely uses banned cluster bombs in its indiscriminate bombing campaign, which has killed thousands of Syrian civilians.

Among the dumb bombs being dropped by the VKS on Syria and its civilians are the OFAB- 250-270 and OFAB- 100-120 high-explosive fragmentation incendiary bombs; FAB-500T dumb bombs; RBK-500 cluster bombs and the horrific ODAB 500 PM fuel-air explosive bomb, also known as a vacuum bomb.

Analysts note that Russia rarely uses precision guided munitions such as laser-guided or electro-optical bombs against rebels since a "500 pound bomb may cost hundreds of dollars, a single precision guided munition will cost tens of thousands of dollars."

And when precision is not an option, "brute unguided bombing is the alternative."

And because of Russia's penchant for using dumb bombs, some military analysts now contend that Russia has no guided air-to-ground munitions capability at all. It's an observation bolstered by the fact Russia hasn't developed and produced targeting pods that steer precision guided munitions onto their targets on the ground.


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