Russia’s Newest Weapon in Ukraine War

The Future Means Even Smarter Kits Will Be Needed

5 mins read
Front view of SPICE

Russia has used a new weapon in the Ukraine war.  It is a huge glide bomb, officially the FAB-3000 M-54 equipped with a UMPK kit.  It is a 3,000 KG weapon (all in weight) or 6,300 lbs.  The weapon has been used twice in the Lyptsi area of the Kharkiv region against Ukrainian army deployments. It is a larger version of Russian glide bombs (FAB-500, FAB 1000, FAB 1500) that the Russians are using in the war.

The Russian glide bomb takes a standard bomb lacking any guidance or glide capabilities and straps on a kit, called UMPK (sometimes translated as UMPC), that adds pop out wings after launch and a guidance package.

FAB series bombs can be launched by Su-34 fighter bombers and by long range bombers including the Tu-22M.  

The FAB-3000 differs from the others in the FAB series as it supposedly also includes a small rocket booster in order to extend the range of the weapon.  There is no official information on how far it can glide once launched, but at least one report suggests a range between 80 to 100 km (roughly between 50 to 62 miles), assuming the launch is from high altitude.

The FAB-3000 uses a somewhat sophisticated type of GPS guidance.  It isn’t clear if the weapon can be programmed to target in flight or on the ground before a mission.

The two weapons used so far show an accuracy of around 10 meters CEP (32 feet) and, in both cases, exploded in front of their assumed target.  Because of the tremendous destructive power of the weapon, the weapon is effective against fixed sites, but could be even better if it had some terminal guidance capability (which seems to be lacking).

Ukraine is said to be improving its electronic warfare systems and may be able to jam FAB attacks in future.  So far at least, there is scant evidence any of the FAB weapons have actually been jammed.

UMPK (or UMPC) stands for Unified Planning and Correction Module.  At present we have no information on the electronics inside the FAB-3000, but it is likely the case that they are similar to, if not the same as what is inside the most recent version of the other FAB models. 

Conflict Armament Research organization has carried out an exploitation of FAB electronics dating from the summer of 2023.  The key electronic components are the KOMETA-M Satellite Navigation system and the CMAPT (SMART) navigation module that include an inertial navigation measurement device).  

Russia’s Kometa-M system is a development of the Kometa receiver which is designed to detect and screen out jamming directed against global navigation satellite signal position, navigation and timing transmissions.

KOMETA M uses four digital antenna arrays that can locate jamming signals and sort them out from legitimate satellite guidance.  According to the company, this makes it possible to withstand jamming many thousands of times better than standard GPS receivers.

KOMETA M uses GPS signals from Russia’s GLONASS (and possibly from other GPS platforms).  GLONASS ( GLObalnaya NAvigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema)  is similar to the US GPS.  It has a high precision channel (like the US GPS) but whereas the US encrypts the high precision channel, the Russians obfuscate it through signal processing.

The components that make up the KOMETA-M are not made in Russia but imported.  Identification information is obscured.  KOMETA M is used on other platforms including the Orlan-10 and Geran-2 drones.  The module is produced by the Russian company VNIIR Progress.  The company was put on the US Sanctions List by the US Treasury Department.

The guided Russian FAB series competes against US, European and Israeli glide bomb kits.  

JDAM

Ukraine has been using the US supplied JDAM.  It is one of the least expensive kits available on the market.  

JDAM stands for Joint Direct Attack Munition. The kits add a front and tail section to standard iron (dumb) bombs of different sizes.  According to Dr. Thomas Wittington, “15 different JDAM kits are in service, equipping a range of bombs weighing from 500 lb (225 kg) to 2,000 lb (900 kg).”  

JDAM uses GPS high precision encrypted signals plus an inertial navigation system and has been improved with anti-spoofing technology.  Nonetheless, JDAM has not met expectations in Ukraine and JDAM launches have been neutralized by Russian jamming and spoofing.  Leaked classified reports says “the weapons have experienced higher-than-expected dud rates and have missed their targets on the battlefield.”  Ukrainian aircraft also have to fend off Russian air defenses, limiting the use of JDAMS anywhere near Russian air defenses and jammers.

Even so, JDAM remains in demand.  Israel, which has its own version of JDAM (more sophisticated and more expensive than JDAM) has ordered thousands.  According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, Israel requested a “possible sale of 14,500 KMU-556C/B Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) tail kits consisting of 10,000 for Mk-84; 500 for Mk-83; and,4,000 for Mk-82; 3,500 Mk-82 bombs; 4,500 Mk-83 bombs; 50 BLU-113 bombs; 4,100 GBU-39 Small Diameter bombs…”  There is considerable controversy over the delivery of JDAM kits, especially for the larger size bombs, which Israel claims have been blocked.  

SPICE Kits

Israel’s own-developed precision bomb kits are marketed under the name SPICE which stands for Smart, Precise Impact, Cost-Effective.  The SPICE system combines electro optical and GPS navigation and can operate in environments where GPS is jammed.  It is manufactured in the United States by Rafael (which recently teamed with Lockheed to offer SPICE to the US military).  SPICE uses scene matching and artificial intelligence.  Unlike UMPK and JDAM, SPICE has an all weather camera that can match an object to a prestored image.  SPICE can operate semi-autonomously and without GPS if there is extreme jamming.  Launched from a fighter jet, SPICE can be programmed in flight and ostensibly can hit both fixed and slow moving targets.  SPICE has a range of about 60 km (37 miles) and a CEP (accuracy expressed as circular error of probability) of between 5 and 10 meters.  

Israel has adapted the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (Adir in Israel) to carry SPICE munitions both internally and externally.

SPICE bomb kit costs are somewhat difficult to determine, but probably fall between $150,000 to $200,000 per copy, making them expensive but not as much as HAMMER.

HAMMER

HAMMER is France’s glide bomb kit.  Unlike JDAM and SPICE, HAMMER uses rocket propulsion to extend range, somewhat like the Russian FAB-3000.  Apparently HAMMER can support GPS guidance, laser target designation and an infrared seeker, but only one or the other.  HAMMER is manufactured by Safran.  Safran claims the advantage of the booster is that HAMMER can be launched from low altitude.

HAMMER has been integrated on India’s Tejas Light Combat Aircraft.  France also claims that HAMMER has been sent to Ukraine, but as yet there are no reports of any operating there. It is said it can work either with the Su-27 or the MIG-29.  France also says it is integrating Hammer for the F-16’s that Ukraine will soon receive.

HAMMER is an expensive system.  In 2011 the cost was at $324,000 per copy compared to JDAM which range in price from $21,000 to $84,000. 

UMPK PRICE

UMPK kits are priced at around 2 million roubles each (around $25,000). The larger bomb kits with boosters are more expensive.

FUTURE BOMB KITS

It is likely that bomb kits are here to stay because they are, at least so far, much cheaper than missiles.  Along with cost effectiveness, adapted iron (dumb bombs) allow the use of old munitions with far higher precision, making targeting more efficient, requiring the use of less weapons and, in some cases, reducing the amount of collateral damage.

The next stage for these weapons is to reduce jamming and to build in greater autonomy, in the manner Israel has done with SPICE.  However, cost is a definite barrier and ways to reduce production cost and increase availability is the challenge ahead.

Stephen Bryen

Stephen Bryen is a former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense and is a leading expert in security strategy and technology. Bryen writes for Asia Times, American Thinker, Epoch Times, Newsweek, Washington Times, the Jewish Policy Center and others.

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