The combat potential of Sukhoi fighters will get a boost with the addition of new Russian precision-guided munitions (PGMs) such as the Region company’s LGB-250 (250-kg caliber lightweight guided bomb) and UPAB-1500 (1,500-kg caliber guided glide aviation bomb) and the Kh-59MK from the Tactical Missile Corp. (TMC).
First mentioned two years ago, the LGB-250 was displayed for the first time at the Akhtubinsk air force base at an open-house event on September 21. This lightest of all known Russian guided bombs features classic laser-ray guidance, which makes it easy to integrate the bomb in both in-service and new aircraft. Designers built the weapon specifically for light combat aircraft or armed trainers with limited payload capability, such as the Yakovlev Yak-130 and Aero Vodochody L-39 series.
Meanwhile, the Russians have yet to formally acknowledge or display the UPAB-1500, although they have experimented with glide weapons for several years. Until recently, the Russian defense ministry did not formulate a specific requirement for glide PGMs, having been happy with laser- and TV-guided missiles from the Kh-25/29/59 series and corrected-guided bombs from the KAB-500/1500 series. However, during hostilities in the mountains of Chechnya, the Russian air force pilots found it difficult to hit bridges with those weapons. The environment, terrain and hostile air defenses did not allow the dedicated strike aircraft like the Su-24 Fencer to deliver precision strikes. The weakness apparently drove Russian strategists to look for a heavyweight, 3,307-pound glide bomb.
The UPAB-1500’s large unfolding wing provides range extension, multiple-mile standoff for both down-range and cross-range operations, and sufficient impact energy to penetrate concrete. The bomb has yet to pass state acceptance trials and export clearance. The Su-34 will likely become the first platform to carry the new bomb, followed by upgraded Su-24 variants.
The upgraded Su-24M2 will also carry the Kh-59MK missile—the third member in the “59” series developed by Raduga design house. It differs from the initial Kh-59 (NATO codename: AS-13 Kingbolt) and later Kh-59M (NATO: AS-18) in its active radar head (rather than TV-command guidance). While the previous Kh-59 versions were meant primarily for ground targets, the “MK” is a dedicated antiship weapon (although other variants, differing in guidance systems, are possible) with an active radar head.
The recently introduced Kh-59MK, distinguished by rectangular stabilizers in place of variable-geometry canards, does not have a solid-fuel booster, but rather additional fuel tanks for the turbojet sustainer. A more powerful and fuel efficient NPO Saturn 36MT motor superseded the AMNTK Soyuz R-95TM-300. Although it is a bit longer, the Kh-95MK keeps the standard 2,050-pound weight. It claims a 154 -nmi firing range.
Chinese navy air arm Su-30MK2 twin-seat multirole fighters are believed to be the first aircraft to employ the exported Kh-59MKs. The weapon is being tested on the Su-24M2. Other Su-24 operators such as Algeria, Libya and Iran all stand as prospective export customers for the weapon.