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Whether Russia managed to modify RBK-500 cluster bombs and what is threat - Expert's assessment

Whether Russia managed to modify RBK-500 cluster bombs and what is threat - Expert's assessment Russia has allegedly modified RBK-500 cluster bombs and used them for the first time (Photo: roszmіdі)

Russian forces, presumably, used modified cluster bombs RBK-500 in the area of the village of Staromayorske in the Donetsk region. The enemy boasts that this is supposedly the first such use, but there are doubts about the reliability of such statements.

Whether there is indeed a new threat to the Ukrainian Defense Forces and how to counter it - in the material by RBC-Ukraine.

During the preparation of the material, sources such as the report of the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the Conflict Intelligence Team, Russian sources, and an exclusive comment from the editor-in-chief of Defense Express, Oleg Katkov, were used.

What is known about the possible use of planning RBK-500?

Information about the alleged use of modified cluster RBK-500 bombs was first reported on Telegram channels.

Later, news about the modification of these aerial bombs was also reported in the ISW report, citing so-called Russian "war correspondents" who first spread the video on the network.

The occupiers supposedly dropped RBK-500 cluster bombs on the positions of the Defense Forces in the area of Staromayorske (Donetsk region). Russian public claims that the aerial bombs have been "modernized." And supposedly, they now have planning capabilities, which were "used for the first time."

However, there are doubts about the veracity of these claims. The editor-in-chief of Defense Express, Oleg Katkov, draws attention to this in a conversation with RBC-Ukraine. Russian "war correspondents" demonstrate using the cluster munition simply using the cassette.

Therefore, based solely on one video, talking about the use of RBK-500, specially modified into planning ones, means trusting Russian sources, the interlocutor notes in a comment to the publication.

Information about RBK-500

RBK-500 is a Russian 500 kg cluster bomb. Investigators from the Conflict Intelligence Team wrote that in the spring of 2022, the occupiers dropped such a cluster bomb on the Odessa region. However, most of the PTAB-1M submunitions likely did not explode then.

It was mentioned that the targets of the strikes could be a military unit or a power substation. It is worth noting that according to open sources, RBK-500 PTAB-1M contains 268 submunitions, and the State Emergency Service reported finding 253 units.

Could Russia resort to modification?

According to the editor-in-chief of Defense Express, if we assume that the RBK-500 has been modified into a planning one, then technically, it is probably possible. However, there are questions about how the Russians implemented the attachment of the UMPK module to the bomb, which is supposed to unfold.

"So, because a cassette bomb, like any cassette munition, unfolds during the approach to the target and creates an affected area with small-sized cassette sub-elements. But the cassette has to unfold. How they implemented the attachment of the planning UMPK module remains a question. Another option is if a special version of RBK-500 called Drill was used, not the UMPK module," explains Katkov.

What threat does it pose?

Regarding the potential threat posed by this cluster bomb, it is quite significant since it has several configurations.

"If we are talking about the RBK-500, it is an aerial bomb with different configurations. It can be fragmentation, fragmentation-fragmentation, anti-tank with cumulative submunitions, incendiary," Katkov noted.

Thus, depending on the choice of the target, a specific bomb with specific elements is selected.

"If it is necessary to destroy armored vehicles, a bomb with cumulative elements is chosen. If it is necessary to hit living forces, a fragmentation bomb is chosen. If it is necessary to hit fuel and lubricants depots, an incendiary one is chosen, and so on," explained Katkov.

How to counter it?

If the Russians indeed modified RBK-500 cluster bombs into planning ones, then, as in the case of UMPK kits, aviation must be used, Katkov explained in a comment to the publication.

So, the only thing that can prevent the enemy from using them is the presence of fighters with long-range missiles like the AIM-120 in Ukraine. This means we are talking about the F-16, which Ukraine has been waiting for quite a long time.