UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


RBK cluster bombs

Cluster munitions are "munitions composed of a non-reusable canister or delivery body containing multiple, conventional, explosive submunitions" delivered by aircraft, cruise missiles, artillery, mortars, missiles, tanks, rocket launchers, and naval cannons. The US developed cluster munitions during the Cold War to saturate likely Soviet mechanized and armored forces avenues of approach into Western Europe with armor-killing munitions.

RBK series cluster munitions come in a selection of designs, depending on the submunition and size of the bomb. For example, the RBK-500 series cluster munitions, as seen on Russian jets in Syria, come in several varieties with differing external features. Examples include the RBK-500 ZAB-2.5M, RBK-500 AO-2.5RT, RBK-500U, and RBK-500 PTAB-1M.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleged that Russia used cluster bombs against civilians, but rejected claims by Russia that Georgia was carrying out “genocide” in South Ossetia. HRW argued that hospital records and eyewitness accounts did not support Russian and South Oseetian claims that thousands of civilians were killed.

Cluster munitions have an associated high dud rate. If the scheme of maneuver will require friendly forces to transit areas previously saturated, personnel should be warned of the hazard and move by vehicle through cleared areas if possible.

On 03 December 2008 Representatives from more than 100 governments began signing a document binding their countries not to make, stockpile, or use cluster bombs in a two-day signing ceremony in the Norwegian capital, Oslo. The signatories include the Cook Islands in the Pacific, the Vatican's Holy See, the Republic of San Marino, the Seychelles, and Papua-New Guinea. Many military powers -- namely the United States, Russia, China, Israel, India, and Pakistan -- declined to sign the ban. Arab states are not signing, in response to Israel's action. Anatoly Antonov, the head of the Department for Security and Disarmament of Russia' Foreign Ministry, said that cluster bombs are legal and effective weapons which are allowed by international law.

In a detailed report issued 14 October 2012 and based on videos posted on line, Human Rights Watch said there is a growing array of evidence that Syrian government forces are using the bombs. David Mepham, an analyst at Human Rights Watch, said that "The evidence that we have suggests that these cluster munitions came from the Soviet era. They’re a type of bomb canister and a type of bomblet that was manufactured in that part of the world... What we don’t know is when they were transferred to Syria, whether they have been sitting in the Syrian stockpile for the last 20-plus years, or whether they were transferred more recently."

The Syrian army October 15, 2012 slammed Human Rights Watch allegations that in recent days it has begun widespread attacks using Russian-made, banned cluster bombs. "The Syrian army does not possess this kind of bomb," the army said in a statement. "Such reports are baseless and a part of a disinformation campaign."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Belgium that the Syrian government is not using cluster munitions from Russia, adding "there are loads of weapons in this region...and arms are supplied there in large quantities and illegally."

Russian markings on the remains indicate they were made more than 30 years ago. Each cluster bomb is specified to contain 30 smaller bombs — commonly referred to as submunitions or bomblets — that detach from the main bomb amid descent in order to inflict maximum damage. An expert with the Washington-based Global Security group, Joseph Trevithick, said the photos show a type of cluster bomb designed to destroy armored vehicles, such as tanks, not people.

Human Rights Watch reported that "The Syrian-Russian joint military operation in Syria has included the use of internationally banned cluster munitions in at least 14 attacks across five governorates since January 26, 2016. The attacks killed at least 37 civilians, including six women and nine children, and wounded dozens." The surge in cluster munition use took place in the context of intensified Russian and Syrian military action to establish control over strategic territory in the governorates of Aleppo, Damascus, Idlib, Homs, and Hama. The offensive around Aleppo caused at least 20,000 people to flee towards the Turkish border. Photographs taken by local people showing the remnants of an RBK-500 series bomb and its payload of ShOAB-0.5 submunitions.

At a news conference in Moscow on 23 December 2015, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian military, denied allegations that the air force has stockpiled cluster munitions in Syria, stating that “Russian aviation does not use them” and “there are no such weapons at the Russian air base in Syria.”

The RBK cluster bomb (Razovaya Bombovaya Kasseta) family of cluster bombs is of post-Second World War design and in its earlier days was primarily used for delivering large numbers of anti-personnel fragmentation submunitions. However, in more recent years they have been adapted to carry various other types of submunitions, such as anti-material, airfield cratering and various types of anti-tank submunitions.
The RBK-500U OFAB-50UD loaded with HE fragmentation submunitions is intended to engage lightly armored and easily vulnerable materiel, manpower, ammunition dumps, field fortifications, military industrial facilities and communication lines.
The RBK-500U OAB-2.5PT loaded with fragmentation submunitions is intended to engage easily vulnerable materiel as well as entrenched and unsheltered manpower, with submunitions exploding in the air.
The RBK-500U BETAB-M loaded with concrete-piercing submunitions is intended to damage runways and main taxiways on all types of modern airfields.
RBK-500 PTAB-1M was a further development of the RBK-500 multipurpose cluster bomb, and was designed to carry 268 anti-tank bomblets designated PTAB-1M, hence the overall designation. It was developed in order to give the Russian Air Force a capability to attack and destroy formations of tanks and armored personnel carriers while on the move, in formation or dispersed over a wide area. The designation letters PT AB stand for protivo-tankovaya aviatsionnaya bomba which means 'anti-tank bomb aircraft'. The RBK-500 PTAB-lM is designed to withstand the high g forces encountered by combat maneuvers of high-speed attack aircraft, and is fitted with standard Russian spaced suspension lugs. The bomb is believed to be cleared for carriage on MiG-21 'Fishbed', MiG-27 'Flogger', MiG-29 'Fulcrum', Su-17 and Su-22 'Fitter', Su-24 'Fencer', Su-25 'Frogfoot' and Su-27 'Flanker' aircraft of the Russian and allied air forces.
RBK-500U SPBE loaded with sensor-fuzed submunitions is designed to effectively defeat military equipment, including tanks that feature heat and radar background contrast, in the clutter and jamming environments.
The RBK-250-275 is believed originally to have been designed to carry fragmentation bomblets designated A0-2.5. However, later versions carried 150 A0-1 SCh fragmentation bomblets, or 30 PTAB-2.5 anti-armor bomblets.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 16-01-2019 13:13:16 ZULU