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Russian Su-34 Bomber Targets Ukrainian Positions with New Guided ODAB-500 Thermobaric Bombs

According to information published by the Russian Ministry of Defense on April 4, 2024, the Russian Air Forces use now new ODAB-500 thermobaric bombs equipped with a UMPK guidance kit that converts traditional bombs into highly accurate guided ammunition. The new bomb was used to strike Ukrainian positions launched by Su-34 bomber aircraft. The ODAB-500 is considered one of the deadlier air-dropped weapons due to this vacuum or thermobaric charge.
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The video released by the Russian Ministry of Defense shows a Su-34 bomber aircraft armed with ODAB-500 thermobaric bombs fitted with UMPK guidance kits. (Picture source Russian MoD)

In the video published by the Russian Defense Ministry on April 4, 2024, footage displays a Su-34 frontline bomber launching four ODAB-500 bombs. The footage captures brief glimmers on the bombs, indicating the activation of squibs, which unveil the wings of the bomb's guidance and correction module. A Su-34 is capable of transporting up to four ODAB-500 bombs at once.

The Su-34, also known as the Fullback by NATO reporting names, is a Russian advanced tactical bomber designed for deep strikes against ground and naval targets under all weather conditions, day and night, and in heavily defended enemy airspace. Developed by Sukhoi, the Su-34 is a derivative of the Su-27 fighter aircraft, featuring a unique platypus nose front, which accommodates a two-person crew side by side in an armored cockpit, providing improved crew comfort and operational capabilities.

The Su-34 tactical bomber is distinguished by its impressive speed and comprehensive armament capabilities. Capable of reaching speeds up to Mach 1.8 (approximately 1,190 mph or 1,920 km/h) due to its powerful AL-31FM1 engines, it can operate at altitudes exceeding 10,000 meters, which enhances its survivability and strategic flexibility. The aircraft's armament is versatile, enabling the deployment of up to 8,000 kg of weaponry across 12 hardpoints. This includes a broad spectrum of munitions such as precision-guided bombs, a variety of missiles (air-to-air, air-to-surface, anti-ship), and unguided rockets. Additionally, the Su-34 is equipped with a 30 mm GSh-301 cannon for close combat engagements. This extensive arsenal, combined with the aircraft's sophisticated avionics and electronic warfare systems, allows the Su-34 to perform a wide range of combat missions, from deep strike and maritime attack to suppression of enemy air defenses.

The ODAB-500 is a type of fuel-air explosive (FAE) bomb developed and used by Russia. These bombs are also known as thermobaric weapons and are designed to unleash a highly destructive blast. They work by dispersing a cloud of flammable aerosol, which is then ignited, producing a massive explosion. This explosion consumes all available oxygen in the vicinity, creating a vacuum that can cause a secondary, equally devastating implosion. The ODAB-500, with a weight of 500 kilograms, is intended to target fortified positions, tunnels, trenches, and groups of buildings or vehicles, combining the blast effects of conventional explosives with the prolonged pressure effect of thermobaric weapons.

These weapons are particularly noted for their ability to inflict catastrophic damage over a wide area, not just through the blast and heat but also by consuming the oxygen in the area, which can result in asphyxiation for those caught within the blast radius but outside the immediate area of fire and pressure effects. The ODAB-500 is designed to be delivered by aircraft, making it a strategic asset for targeting dense, fortified, or underground facilities that are difficult to destroy with conventional explosives.

The ODAB-500 boasts a destructive range of 25 to 30 meters. Beyond its effectiveness against personnel or fortified positions, it is also capable of swiftly neutralizing anti-tank minefields.

The ODAB-500 bomb has a diameter of 500 mm and a length of 2380 mm. It weighs a total of 525 kg, with the explosive filler accounting for 193 kg of that weight. When deployed from an aircraft, it can be released at altitudes ranging from 200 to 12,000 meters and at speeds up to 1500 km/h. If launched from a helicopter, the operational release altitudes range from 220 to 5,000 meters, with speeds between 50 and 400 km/h.

The ODAB-500's warhead consists of 190 to 193 kilograms of a highly volatile, high-energy fuel-air explosive, the precise composition of which remains undisclosed. This weapon's distinctive feature lies in its use of a liquid slurry, setting it apart from the majority of conventional explosives that are typically formulated from a blend of fuel and oxidizer, such as gunpowder, which maintains a 25 percent fuel to 75 percent oxidizer ratio.

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