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Russia Increases the Use of RBK-500 Cluster Bombs to Target Ukrainian Forces.

| 2023

According to the latest information released by the British Ministry of Defense on November 29, 2023, the Russian Air Force has been increasingly utilizing the RBK-500, a 500 kg cluster munition bomb, in their operations against Ukrainian military positions and urban areas throughout November 2023.
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Russian-made RBK-500 cluster bomb. (Picture source Vitaly Kuzmin)

The RBK-500 is known for its capacity to release between 100 and 350 sub-munitions, each causing significant damage. These sub-munitions are designed to either explode into hundreds of high-velocity fragments, suitable for inflicting widespread damage, or to deploy a single, large anti-tank charge aimed at armored targets.

Recent reports indicate that the RBK-500 bombs have been actively used in combat zones, particularly on the Vuhledar front and near Avdiivka in the Donetsk Oblast region. This marks a concerning escalation in the intensity and potential destructiveness of aerial bombardments in the conflict.

Additionally, there are indications that Russia has begun integrating the RBK-500 with a UMPC (Unified Planning and Correction Module) guided stand-off glide kit. This technology enables the launch aircraft to release the bomb from several kilometers away, increasing the safety for the attacking aircraft but historically suffering from poor accuracy. Despite this, the sheer number of sub-munitions in each RBK-500 allows for a wide area of effect, spanning several hundred meters, thereby raising the likelihood of causing damage to intended targets.

The use of such weapons raises significant concerns regarding civilian safety and the escalation of the conflict, drawing international attention to the need for stricter adherence to rules of engagement and consideration of humanitarian impacts in warfare.

Russia has developed a new type of cluster bomb, the RBK-500U. This advanced bomb features a sleek, thin casing and is designed for free-fall deployment. It's equipped with a parachute and a base-ejection system to effectively disperse an array of modern Russian submunitions over a designated target area.

The RBK-500U is versatile, and capable of being loaded with a variety of submunitions. These include high-explosive fragmentation submunitions like AO-2.5RT and OAB-2.5RT, each carrying 126 units, and OFAB-50UD and OFAB-2.5 types. It can also be equipped with 352 PTAB-1M high-explosive anti-tank submunitions, as well as dual-purpose HEAT/Frag, BetAB-M for penetrating concrete, ZAB-2.5 incendiary, and the cutting-edge Smart SPBE-D submunitions. The number of submunitions it carries varies based on their type and weight.

The bomb's casing is cylindrical with parallel sides, except at the nose and tail, and is approximately 5mm thick. The fuze mechanism, located beneath the parachute in the tail, is an electro-mechanical type with a time delay feature. Additionally, a small low-explosive charge in the nose, connected to the tail fuze, is designed to detach the tail and release the submunitions.

Defense News November 2023

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