TechThe RBK-500 with UMPK module. Russia's answer to the JDAM-ER

The RBK‑500 with UMPK module. Russia's answer to the JDAM-ER

FAB-500 bomb with UMPK module
FAB-500 bomb with UMPK module
Images source: © The text "Duinnps" appears to be neither Polish nor English. It can't be translated., Lic. CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons
3:41 PM EST, November 23, 2023

Experiences drawn from the recent conflicts in Ukraine have led the Russians to modify their weapons, applying techniques that have been employed successfully by Western countries. A notable example of this is the modification of the RBK-500 cluster bomb.

Developed in the 1980s by the Soviet Union, the RBK-500 is a cluster bomb weighing approximately 1102 lbs (500 kg). Numerous variations of this weapon differ in the number of submunitions they carry (from 8-252 items) and their purpose, ranging from anti-tank bombs and fuel-air explosions to demolition and fragmentation bombs.

This type of bomb was first deployed by the USSR during the war in Afghanistan and later by Russia in Chechnya.

The Russians have also used them in the conflict in Ukraine. As suggested by photographs provided by the Ukrainian Defense Express service, the Russians used a new version of this weapon in an attack on November 19, enhancing the capabilities of the existing bomb.

An analysis of the bomb remnants, dropped on Ukrainian positions in Donetsk, indicates that the Russians have developed their version of the American JDAM ER bomb.

JDAM-ER: The Guided Soaring Bomb

JDAM is a suite of control and guidance systems that, when attached to a standard free-falling bomb (such as Mark 82), transforms it into a low-cost guided bomb. The JDAM-ER variant is equipped with foldable, small wings, enabling it to cover dozens of miles.

The RBK-500 bomb with UMPK Module

Elements found at the combat site confirm reports from April 2023 that the Russians have developed a similar system. This system combines a UMPK module, in the form of a bracket, with a control system and foldable wings attached to the bomb body. The Russian Defense Ministry's footage further confirms the use of this solution.

While this setup may appear quite unwieldy and likely worsens the RBK-500's aerodynamic characteristics, it transforms the bomb into a soaring guided bomb. The navigation system relies on GLONASS satellite navigation. However, in the absence of an interface for data transfer from the aircraft, the target's coordinates must be determined before takeoff, thereby ruling out the possibility of attacking moving targets.

The modified RBK-500 bomb, although appearing rather primitive, grants the Russians new capabilities, such as the ability to attack Ukrainian positions without venturing into the range of MANPADS like the Polish Piorun system, and possibly short-range anti-aircraft systems like the German IRIS-T SLS.

The UMPK module, which turns regular bombs into guided gliding bombs, was found in Ukraine.
The UMPK module, which turns regular bombs into guided gliding bombs, was found in Ukraine.© Defense Express
FAB-500 bomb with UMPK module
FAB-500 bomb with UMPK module©
Related content