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Mounting Evidence of Russian Cluster Bomb Use in Syria

October 6, 2015

By Eliot Higgins

Since October 4th, video footage of an unusual munition has been shared by opposition groups in Syria

The video shows a munition dropped from an aircraft, followed by a group of detonations just above the ground. Video posted on October 4th from Kafr Halab, located south-west of Aleppo, also shows a similar pattern of explosions in the air. Another video posted on the same day claims to show Russian cluster bombs targeting a Jabhat al-Nusra camp near to Kafr Halab, with a similar pattern of smoke in the air:

Today photographs have been posted online showing an unexploded munition, reportedly from Kafr Halab:


This is the remains of a cluster munition, the SPBE-D, deployed from a RBK-500-SPBE-D cluster bomb. In this video featuring the munitions manufacturer there’s clear matches between the design of the munition in the video and the munition photographed in Syria. The footage also demonstrates how the munitions operate, by launching their payload while above the ground at targets below.

While there’s no images of Russia aircraft in the area, only the claims of local groups, it’s worth noting that this type of cluster munition has never been used in the conflict before, despite the widespread use of at least 8 other types of cluster munitions in the conflict, and the RBK-500-SPBE-D can only be delivered by aircraft.

Eliot Higgins

Eliot Higgins is the founder of Bellingcat and the Brown Moses Blog. Eliot focuses on the weapons used in the conflict in Syria, and open source investigation tools and techniques.

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  1. Randy Dread

    seems to me the Russians are basically trying to show that they’re another version of America, a powerful state that has advanced weapons.

    and they’re trying to do the media side of things the way america does it as well.

    of course they arent as powerful, everyone knows that, but they’ve shown considerable military capabilities so far. better than anyone thought, i’d venture to say.

      • boggled

        Russian piece had more of a feel a recruiting or propaganda piece with all the extras.
        Like I said, the veracity of the claim of how many, the accuracy, if they all went off, etc is something you should question.

        You go out of your way to question every piece of nonKremlin sponsored media, don’t you think they deserve extremely high scrutiny after spreading Odessa lies, crucified child in Slavyansk lies, Russian MoD satellite footage photoshopping, etc?
        I just do not understand how you give them a pass on all their obvious propaganda pieces and will attack the credibility profusely of anything against the vova partyline.

        Your welcome for the footage, I questioned, but verified.

        BC attempts to do that to the best the can do, and I think they do a wonderful job.
        They may not have the whole evidence so on a few occasions they may make their conclusions on what they have, and most of the time it plays out correctly.
        Regardless of your denial.

        Regarding the cluster bombs above, this links shows a little more about how they were found.
        Not sure of the Demonstration video is accurate I say that for a SMERCH launched rocket I believe, not an RBK500

        Fare thee well

        • Randy Dread

          boggled wrote:
          “You go out of your way to question every piece of nonKremlin sponsored media, don’t you think they deserve extremely high scrutiny after spreading Odessa lies, crucified child in Slavyansk lies, Russian MoD satellite footage photoshopping, etc?”

          Oh of course ,much of what appears in Russian media is utter bollocks.

          They haven’t yet learned our techniques of slanting, omitting, etc. So at this stage it’s crude stuff.

          The British invented modern propaganda (I know its a Vatican concept originally) and we are the masters.

          • boggled

            I think the main difference is Western media being profit driven as opposed to state sponsored.
            Profit driven, they will lose readers and subscribers if they screw up.
            They also lose sources if they mess up what that person said, such as an anonymous source.
            State sponsored is all about supporting the government and telling lies for it when directed to.
            And RT has made its far share of lying and the journalist their will never get a job in the west because the West has some sort of Hippocratic oath as far as journalism goes.
            Kremlin sponsored media, the journalist get fired if they make the Kremlin look bad.
            Hence journalists have NO morals there.

            And the fact over 300 died and many more permanently disable because of Kremlin’s justice against the journalist that do not print something vova likes.
            They have been guilty of using 1980 Congo footage of a UN helicopter and making the claim that that is a helicopter Ukraine was using to kill civilians.

            That and others makes Russia and their media very unreliable for facts.
            That and the fact the almost never correct or retract a story.
            The western media is a lot better, but they do flub some things up from time to time and the good thing is being profit driven they try to avoid that..

            Fare thee well

          • Mad Dog

            “They haven’t yet learned our techniques of slanting, omitting, etc. So at this stage it’s crude stuff.” ya gotta be joking! They are past masters of the art. Just look at their historical photos during Sov times. Chicoms copied them and they in turn taught the North Koreans. This all started with Lenin and his any means to achieve an end policy. Really surprised you don’t remember all that. The current regime has not changed that much at all especially since the head of gov’t is ex-NKVD/KGB (sic).

        • boggled

          I hope you understand why people questioned it with no confirmation from coalition forces and how dangerous it could be with cruise missile flying around when Iranian, Iraqi, and Coalition forces fighter jets were in the air.
          Not to mention civilian aircraft in those air spaces.

          One of those hit another fighter jet, imagine the what would happen for Moscow not forewarning everyone?

          Be one thing if a bunch of NOTAMs were issued or everyone else grounded their forces in that time frame, but no one mentioned any supporting evidence that would corroborate the cruise missile launches.
          That and it coming from RT and the Kremlin, makes a lot of people doubt.

          Not so happy the Kremlin did launch cruise missiles, but I am happy I dug deeper and was able to verify at least they launched and flew and hit some targets.
          For this one time and a couple others, I will admit there was some truth in what you posted, not exactly relevant to the article about cluster munitions, but still an important event.

          Fare thee well

          • Neil

            Not sure if cruise missiles flying at 100 meters will be getting in the way of commercial jets flying at 5,000 meters. . .

            Just saying. . .

          • Mad Dog

            Cruise missiles fly at higher altitudes until they are closer to the target.

    • JimThorpe surfer

      Ok….Ok…lol no BS..? I am not trying to be mean nor a Jerk..however…the Video is Dated 2013 and No Concrete Facts nor verifiable data is given in regards towards CURRENT Action taken statements made in the Article..true? thanks for reading and your time

  2. Mad Dog

    The Russky pilots gotta be a bit wary as many of them are flying what could be called very mature systems. Quality control being what it is in Russia, I am sure many of them go on a binge after every sortie, thanking the Vodka god for their safe return. Wonder if they are also ‘volunteers’. Not too sure why the vid is seen as being sketchy. Continuity seems intact, and the change in contrast and color is inherent when you shift from a totally blue background to one with the ground in sight.

    • boggled

      Sketchy vid because RT has been caught before using old footage for current events.
      Thing is we do not know what we can trust.
      Usually there is some truth in RT broadcast, it is just deciphering what.
      I still remain skeptical of the amount of missiles launched, the targets hit, the accuracy of the missiles and that it had a 100 percent success.
      It just seems very messy for them to launch from such a long distance and from the Caspian Sea and through at least two other air spaces, and a danger to pilots of all other flights.

      Fare thee well

    • Randy Dread

      It’s a good thing American planes dont regularly fall out of the sky due to their age.

      Oh wait.

      • Mad Dog

        I betcha the F15 is maintained a lot more rigorously than SU 24’s. Have you ever flown on domestic Russian air routes?

    • Bob

      Nice stereotype thou have their. I’m pretty sure Russian pilots are as professional as their western counterparts. Also those jets they have over there, some of their latest apart from the Fencer, but then again they seem to be holding up pretty well.

  3. Neil

    The journalist could look up the US “CBU-97 Sensor Fuzed Weapon” if he is really interested in finding out what the munition may be. . .

    That is if he is an honest broker here. . .

    • boggled

      Neil, EH mentioned 8 other cluster munitions have been used and documented.
      And this is a new one that just shown up.
      This looks exactly like the Russian one presented above.

      The USA one has no relevance to a new cluster munition being dropped in Syria.
      You are welcome to start your own blog and discuss the CBU-97 and any and all sensor fuzed munitions.
      You could recognize that if your an honest comment maker here.

      Sorry Randy for not getting back to you sooner, I had to rush off to Iran and replace a bunch of glass windows in regions that had some strange objects crash into the ground nearby.
      They were a real strange shape and had a bunch of Cyrillic writing on them.

      Now what makes you think they are made in 1990 and not 2015?
      You found some with identifying marks?
      Do share the images.

      Fare thee well

      • Randy Dread

        it has the manufacturing date 06 -90 on it, and the modern Russian style muntions are as seen above on the sales video not this style.

        This is the old pattern originating in Soviet times.

        • boggled

          Randy, RF military has changed their coding a few times over the years.
          I actually believe they do not put the month of manufacture on the ammo.
          The Л is production line (this would change by month, semi annual, trimester, quarterly or other)
          The 06 is manufacture year – 2006
          The 90 is the plane where it came from.
          That is usually how that series of numbers comes.

          The ББ6 – 112- 465 are more pertaining to the variation of what is packed in the ammo.
          Some have armor piercing some have other composites in the ammo shells, explosive shells or other.

          Fare thee well

      • Neil

        My point is that it looks like an anti vehicle/tank weapon like the US uses rather then the “Cluster Munition” targeting people that Israel fired a million of into Southern Lebanon on 2006.

        The term “Cluster Munition” seems to be have used trying to besmirch Russia’s actions in Syria.

          • Leks

            “Уважаемый”-вы конченный и тупой пидараз, нифига не разбирающийся в оружии кретин.

          • blowout

            Guys did u read what the russian wrote? He just said u don’t understand or know jack about weapons and u were pederasti and kretin – if he could use those words then u surely are doing a good job analyzing this. Great work guys!

    • Mad Dog

      Death toll: 140 terrorists consisting of 37 4 to 8 year olds, 16 78 to 90 year olds, and 25 women under 22. Russia reports one ISIS man was deprived of the use of his cell phone, the object of this strike.


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