What is better – missile or guided bomb?
Russian Guided weapons; far right is KAB-1500KR, second from the right is KAB-500KR.
photo Remko van de Bunt
It was recently unveiled that Russian Air Force tests three types of new guided bombs. There are: UPAB-1500KR, which is a gliding version of KAB-1500KR heavy TV-guided bomb; KAB-500S GPS/Glonass guided bomb similar to American JDAM and KAB-250L, first Russian light laser guided bomb, very similar to American GBU-12. At the same time no new tactical guided missile was recently developed in Russia, only some new versions of existing types. Interestingly, for many years Soviet Union preferred missiles over the guided bombs. The necessity to drop guided bomb from medium or high altitude was deemed as a serious imitation of the guided bomb. It was assessed that a missile launched from a quick jump to 200-300 m, at some distance to the target (typically 5-7 km) would guarantee engagement of a battlefield target before its defense could react. Even when the launching aircraft would enter the range of small caliber AAA guns and MANPADs envelope, it would happen after the missile launch and the target kill probability is still high. Along with the guided missiles, also the other weapon was favorable. It was a retarded bomb, which was used in various size (100, 250 or 500 kg). The OFAB-250ShN or FAB-500Sh bombs, equipped with parachutes, could be dropped from level flight on the altitude of 50 m and usually hit the target with accuracy of 15-20 m, almost comparable with the accuracy of laser guided bomb dropped from high altitude. Even when somebody says that 15 m is not the same as 3 m, but I would like not to be even 200 m from 500 kg bomb explosion, not mentioning 15-20 m. My wing was allowed to drop the 250 or 500 kg retarded bombs against only specific targets at shooting range, because dropping them against a tanks in column (real T-34s withdrawn from service; my favorite target) usually overthrown the poor tanks turret down, and the commandant of the range had to hire a heavy crane to put the wreckage back on place. The both, retarded bombs and guided missiles could be used on relatively low altitudes at high speed and do not expose the aircraft against air defense fire. So according to this notion all the Soviet Su-17 and MiG-27, other Warsaw Pact countries Su-22 and MiG-23BN were armed with missiles. Even the Su-24M attacking in the first wave were to carry missiles, though usually heavier ones