Is This Our First Look At Russia’s New Monster Glide Bomb Striking Ukraine?

Russian forces have begun employing massive 3,000-kilogram (6,600-pound) class FAB-3000 M54 bombs turned into stand-off weapons in Ukraine it has been claimed. If true, this could present a significant new challenge for Ukrainian forces given the amount of destruction power such a weapon could deliver while also helping the launch platform stay further away from Ukrainian air defenses. At the same time, questions have already been raised about what aircraft might be able to employ FAB-3000 M54s converted in this way and the size of the available stockpile of the bombs, all of which could limit their actual operational utility.

The Fighterbomber channel on Telegram, which has close connections to the Russian Aerospace Forces, shared a video, seen below, earlier today purporting to show the first combat employment of a FAB-3000 M54 fitted with a UMPK-series glide bomb kit. UMPK modules consist of a pop-out wing kit and a guidance package, as you can read more about here. The FAB-3000 is one of, if not the largest conventional general-purpose high-explosive bomb in Russian service today. There is no direct U.S. military analog, with the largest of the three most common sizes of bombs American forces employ being in the 2,000-pound (900-kilogram) class, or less than a third of the size.

The post from Fighterbomber accompanying the video claims that it shows the modified FAB-3000 M54 being used to target a three-story structure Ukrainian forces were using as a forward operating location in the village of Lyptsi in the country’s northern Kharkiv region.

A map showing the general location of Lyptsi in Ukraine’s northern Kharkiv region. Google Maps

The War Zone has not been able to independently verify those claims. At the time of writing, there does not appear to be any picture or video showing or claiming to show a UMPK-equipped FAB-300 M54, either.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, at left, inspects a munitions plant in Nizhny Novgorod in March. A standard FAB-3000 M54 bomb is seen in the background. Russian MoD

The video does show an aerial attack on a three-story building, as well as nearby structures. The munition responsible can be seen briefly before impacting the ground, but the footage is very grainy and what the weapon is cannot be readily discerned.

A screen capture from the video right before the weapon, which can be just barely seen above the road at top center, impacts the ground. via X
A close-up, such as it is, of the weapon. via X

Whatever the weapon is, it clearly has significant destructive power, causing major damage to the apparent main target and completely leveling three other buildings. Other structures in the area also show signs of being damaged to varying degrees.

A screen capture showing the large explosion after the weapon hits its mark. via X
Another screen grab showing some of the aftermath of the aerial attack. Significant damage to the three-story building is visible and three structures that were to the right have been completely flattened. via X

While it remains unknown whether FAB-3000 M54 fitted with a UMPK kit was used to carry out the attack seen in the video, Russian forces have been making heavy use of smaller 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) class glide bombs for more than a year now. In January, the Russian Ministry of Defense released a video showing a larger UMPK-equipped 1,500-kilogram (3,300-pound) class FAB-1500 M54. There have since been reports that FAB-1500-based glide bombs have been used in combat in Ukraine, as well.

It is also worth noting here that the first public picture of any bomb with a UMPK glide bomb kit and the first report that FAB-1500s were being converted in this way both came from Fighterbomber on Telegram.

If Russian forces are now launching FAB-3000 M54-based glide bombs this presents new challenges for Ukrainian defenders. The emergence of 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) class glide bombs created major problems for Ukraine’s armed forces that prompted a notable shift in its air defense tactics, techniques, and procedures, developments which The War Zone has tracked closely. Even so, Russian forces continue to employ the smaller UPMK-equipped bombs, which remain very real threats.

The new video from Fighterbomber certainly underscores the potential added destructive power that a UMPK-equipped FAB-3000 M54, which would give Russian forces a new stand-off option for engaging large targets.

Still, there are real questions about Russia’s capacity to employ these monstrous bombs. FAB-3000 M54s even without the added weight and bulk of UMPK kits are beyond the stated payload capacities of pylons on the vast majority of Russian tactical jets. Russia’s MiG-31K Foxhounds, which can carry Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missiles that are estimated to weigh nearly 9,500 pounds (4,300 kilograms), might be one option, but there are only a small number of those aircraft. The MiG-31K’s high speed and service ceiling would help extend the range of a glide-bomb version of the FAB-3000 M54.

A MiG-31K carrying a Kinzhal missile. Russian MoD

Altogether, the Russian Aerospace Forces’ bomber fleets look to be the most likely launch platforms for FAB-3000 M54s tuned into glide bombs. The FAB-3000 was originally designed to be carried by Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers and those aircraft can only carry two of them at a time in their bomb bays.

Russian Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers. Alexander Beltyukov via Wikimedia
A FAB-3000-series bomb in a Tu-22M3’s bomb bay. Public Domain via Defense Express

Russia’s willingness, or lack thereof, to send its prize bombers closer to harm’s way could, in turn, limit its ability to use these bombs. Ukraine has already demonstrated its ability to target Russian bombers and other very high-value aircraft at extended ranges, particularly with Patriot surface-to-air missile systems it has received from the United States and other Western partners.

In the course of the conflict so far, Russian bombers have largely been used to launch cruise missile strikes at Ukrainian targets from well within Russian airspace.

The claim that the FAB-3000 M54 glide bomb was used to attack buildings in Lyptsi, which sits less than 10 miles from the Russian border, may point to limitations in using these weapons against targets deeper inside Ukraine.

There’s also just the question of how many of the Cold War-era FAB-3000s Russia has at all in its stockpile to convert into glide bombs. Russian authorities did claim in March that mass production of the bombs had been restarted, but how long it might take them to really ramp that up remains to be seen.

Even a small number of FAB-3000 M54s equipped with UMPK glide bomb kits could be problematic for Ukraine depending on how they are employed. This could be compounded by already concerning shortages of surface-to-air missiles, including interceptors for Patriot systems, within the Ukrainian armed forces. Just today, the U.S. government announced a new effort to redirect supplies of multiple types of air defense interceptors to Ukraine to bolster the country’s ability to defend itself against aerial threats, as you can read more about here.

Whatever the case, hard evidence of UMPK-equipped FAB-3000 M54s being in service has yet to emerge. That being said, if even a small number of these three-ton bombs are now available and being employed against Ukrainian targets, they could still present a significant new threat.

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