The latest Russian developments allow the use of free-fall bombs with an accuracy corresponding to the best WTO models. On average, a little more than one sortie is required to destroy one object - 1,16. This is a very good result, given the fact that precision weapons are used by Russian aviation in Syria is very limited. The main means of destruction are uncontrolled weapons systems - NURS of various calibers and free-fall bombs.
There are almost no victims among the civilian population (it can be assumed that they exist, since the militants of the Islamic State place their objects in cities and towns near residential buildings). All this makes it necessary to carefully look at the means of destruction used by Russian aviation. After all, the actions of American aviation in similar conditions in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya were accompanied by significant civilian casualties. They were especially great when American aircraft used free-fall bombs. Yes, and the consumption of weapons, a technical resource per one hit target, turned out to be significantly higher than it is now among Russian pilots in Syria. This is because with traditional use of free-fall bombs, dispersion is quite significant - the deviation of ammunition can vary from 150 to 400 meters, depending on the height of the drop and the method of approaching the aircraft. This means that the probability of a direct hit by a bomb in a small-sized target (ten by ten meters) is small and makes up a maximum of half a percent. Taking into account the possible area of destruction by a medium-caliber bomb (250 kg) of ground objects, which are partially protected in engineering terms, the probability of damage increases to two percent. A typical strike aircraft, with a bomb load of four tons (16 bombs for 250 kg), is capable of hitting a protected underground object with a probability of up to eight percent, and a ground, unprotected one - with a probability of about 30 percent. Accordingly, to defeat a point object with an acceptable probability (0,6 – 0,8), a very decent outfit of tactical (front-line, assault) aviation is required - from a four-side link to one or two squadrons with a general 12 – 24 squadron. And to defeat well-defended underground structures with free-fall bombs, it will be necessary to plan already 70 – 80 and more sorties, as evidenced by the practice of combat use of aviation in military conflicts of the 20th century, for example, Vietnamese. In addition, in this case, huge losses are inevitable among the civilian population living near military sites: in an area with a radius of 150 – 400, meters from the target will fall and explode from 40 – 45 to 300 and more 250-kilogram bombs, while the rest will fall even further. Hardly any of the civilians in this area survive.
Bomb - fool, sight - well done
Russian planes, using free-fall bombs of medium (250 kg) and large caliber (500 kg), solve the problem of hitting point well-protected objects (including underground ones) with small forces - one or two aircraft. And this is in conditions when the militants of the “Islamic State” have been under attack by the US and NATO aviation for a long time and managed to take measures to minimize their losses, one of which was the placement of its infrastructure as possible within the residential area to hide behind civilians. Meanwhile, no noticeable losses among him from the strikes of Russian aviation have been reported so far. Military experts explain this by saying that the bulk of the Russian aircraft sent to Syria are equipped with the latest domestic development of the SVP-24. The idea behind this system is to provide not accurate homing at the target of the ammunition, but the correct conclusion to the point of discharge of unmanaged means of destruction of their carrier. By this, our system is fundamentally different from the American concept of turning conventional bombs into precision weapons - JDAM. The US is installing kits on free-fall bombs that will target them using GPS data. That is, they turned ordinary bombs into controlled ones. It is clear that the cost of such a bomb increases significantly (the kit costs about 26 thousands of dollars), although it remains substantially less than a full-fledged precision-guided munition. SVP-24 provides for combining the target with the location of the carrier, adjusted for the flight path of the bomb, calculated by the on-board computer complex taking into account the hydrometeorological conditions and its ballistics. Thus, conventional ammunition acquires performance, commensurate with high-precision weapons. The developers claim that the accuracy of bombing, even from a height of five to six kilometers, can be extremely high. Testing in polygon conditions gave a standard deviation of 250 – 500-kilogram bomb from the target of about four to seven meters. It is clear that in a combat situation, additional factors are superimposed that significantly reduce the accuracy of bombing. This is primarily an error in determining the coordinates of the target, which can reach several meters. There is no complete information about the hydrometeorological situation, the state of the air environment in the target area. An additional few meters of error will determine the location of the carrier according to GLONASS data in the combat zone. Coordinates are somewhat distorted during sharp maneuvering in the target area. Taking into account all these factors, one can estimate the accuracy of the combat use of free-fall bombs using the SVP-24 indicator in 20 – 25 meters. In this case, the probability of hitting a small sized underground structure can be 30 – 40 percent, and the probability of hitting poorly protected ground objects with an average caliber can reach 60 percent. This is quite enough to carry out a highly accurate and reliable defeat of the designated targets with a limited composition of forces: even for a strongly protected small-sized object, three or four bombs are sufficient to apply, and a weakly protected one will be guaranteed to be destroyed by two ammunition. At the same time, the zone of destruction near the target object will not exceed several tens of meters, which is comparable with the distance between individual buildings in a typical urban area. Thus, having 12 – 16 bombs of medium and large caliber, equipped with the SVP-24 system, the Su-24М aircraft is capable of destroying up to two point infrastructures of the Islamists in one flight. It is probably for this reason that, on average, there is a little more than one sortie on each struck object (we must not forget that strike aircraft are accompanied by support aircraft, in particular fighters). At the same time, the cost of ammunition compared to high-precision weapons or bombs equipped with a JDAM kit, remains penny. In fairness, we note that the accuracy of a JDAM bomb will be higher - five to seven meters. That is, the probability of hitting even in a protected underground structure reaches 70 – 80 percent.
The smoke does not hide
It should be particularly noted that the effectiveness of the bombing using the SVP-24 system depends little on the weather conditions and the visibility range in the target area, since it is determined by the GLONASS system and the operation of the aircraft’s on-board systems. That is, if the coordinates of the target are reliable, it is no longer possible to defend oneself from a blow by setting smoke screens or other means of masking. However, this system has its drawbacks. The most important of them lies in its dignity - the requirement to determine the coordinates of the target with high accuracy and properly classify it. This entails a sharp increase in reaction time — from the moment a target is detected to strike it, it can take from an hour or two (depending on the distance of the target from the airfield) to a day or more. That limits the use of this weapon only on stationary objects. It is probably for this reason that, with rare exceptions, our aircraft in Syria are working to destroy the infrastructure of the “Islamic State”. However, American aircraft in Syria and Iraq also act for the most part against similar targets.
In Syria, Russian aviation uses mainly standard high-explosive free-fall bombs 250 and 500 kilograms, as well as BETAB-500 special concrete bombs, including active-reactive bombs with enhanced obstacle clearance capabilities - BETAB-500SP. High-explosive bombs contain a large amount of explosives - from 150 to 350 kilograms, which ensures a reliable defeat of the target. However, high-explosive high-explosive bombs have a significant radius of destruction, so they are used in Syria against relatively large in size constructively strong objects located remotely from urban areas. Concrete bombs that can pierce up to three or four meters of concrete floors (depending on the quality of concrete) are used to destroy specially protected underground structures. These are mainly command posts of the strategic and operational management level, as well as large warehouses of weapons.
In addition to free-fall bombs, high-precision weapons are occasionally used in Syria. According to reliable sources in the Ministry of Defense, during the fighting, air-to-surface missiles X-29 and X-25 were repeatedly used, both with laser and television guidance systems. The main carriers of such weapons in Syria are Su-34 and Su-25. The X-29 family of missiles with a launch weight of 660 – 680 kilograms has a warhead weighing 320 kilograms. Their firing range is 10 – 15 kilometers, depending on the transparency of the atmosphere. Capturing a target with a homing head is carried out from under the wing of an aircraft, so after launching, the carrier can freely maneuver (if there is an external source of target illumination when using missiles with a laser seeker), implementing the principle of “fired-forgotten”. The highest accuracy of firing rockets from a television seeker is achieved by visually contrasting targets. In order to use laser homing systems, the target needs to be illuminated with a laser, which can be carried out from the carrier itself (in this case, it will be constrained to a certain extent in the maneuver and must be in the impact area until the target is hit) or an external source, such as a drone. Provides a direct hit on a typical small-sized target (two to three meters) with a probability of up to 80 or more percent. A powerful high-explosive armor-piercing warhead with a missile speed in the vicinity of the 350 – 400 target meter per second almost guaranteed to ensure its destruction, even if it is protected by one and a half meters of concrete floors. At the same time, the zone of destruction of buildings adjacent to the target does not exceed 10 – 15 meters. In Syria, such missiles are used to destroy specially protected objects located in areas of dense urban development to exclude casualties among the local population.
X-25 compact missiles, which also find use in Syria, have a starting mass of about 300 kilograms and a warhead from 86 to 136 kilograms. The latest modifications of this rocket can be equipped with a tandem warhead, penetrating concrete floors up to a meter thick, ensuring complete destruction of the object. Accuracy of hit - the same two or three meters deviations as the X-29. Target capture is also carried out from under the carrier's wing; therefore, the practical launch range is mainly limited by the range of the GOS, which, in a clean atmosphere, reaches 7 – 12 kilometers. High accuracy of shooting and a relatively small warhead allow X-25 to be used in dense urban areas to destroy objects located in the immediate vicinity of residential buildings without causing serious damage to them.
If all were CABs
In addition to the listed samples, the Russian VKS in Syria use adjustable bombs on a limited scale. It is known about several facts of use of KAB-500L and KAB-500Кр. The first of them has a laser guidance system, the second - a television one. Both have powerful combat units weighing about 400 kilograms containing slightly less than 280 kilograms of explosives. Accuracy of hitting the target is four - nine meters - at the level of the best world samples. The discharge can be carried out from a height of 1500 meters and to the practical ceiling of front and ground attack aircraft. The distance to the object and the height of the dropping of bombs are limited by the allowable flight speed of the carrier and the range of target acquisition of the GOS (to 9 km). The probability of damage even well-protected objects with one such ammunition is 80 – 85 percent and more. A powerful warhead further increases the likelihood of destroying the target, however, and imposes restrictions on the use of such weapons in residential areas with dense buildings. Therefore, in Syria, half-toned CABs are used sporadically to hit very strong objects located at a distance from residential buildings. In particular, according to sources trustworthy, it was precisely such bombs that destroyed the fortifications of militants in the interests of ensuring the offensive of the Syrian army.
For strikes against targets located in close proximity to civilian objects, our aviation uses the latest development of the Russian military-industrial complex - KAB-250. In Syria, bombs of this type are used with a control system that provides guidance to a stationary target according to GLONASS data, like the American JDAM. However, our development has features. Firstly, it allows discharge at supersonic speeds, which allows it to be separated from the carrier at a distance of several tens of kilometers from the target and to ensure high speed of the bomb in the area of the impact object. Secondly, the perfect aerodynamic forms allowed to achieve higher accuracy of hitting the target, which is estimated at two to three meters. In combination with a relatively small warhead, this allows the use of KAB-250 on targets located directly at objects, the destruction of which is unacceptable for one reason or another. For such surgical attacks, this munition is used today in Syria.
High-precision munitions with television and laser-guided systems can hit mobile and stationary targets without conducting advanced detailed reconnaissance. This makes it possible to efficiently use the KABs in operatively identified fortifications and defense units of the militants.
It should be particularly noted that the weapons used by the Russian front and assault aircraft allow our planes not to enter the zone of destruction of the militants' MANPADS. And this still makes it possible to avoid the loss of our air force in Syria.