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“That’s Not a Cluster Bomb” – The Differences Between OFAB 250-270s and RBK-500s

February 3, 2016

By Eliot Higgins

In December 2015 Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International both published reports that included claims that Russia had used cluster munitions in its air campaign in Syria. The Russian Defence Ministry responded to those accusations by denying Russia had them at their airbase in Syria:

Concerning the suppositions on cluster bombs.

Russian aviation does not use them.

There are dozens of foreign journalists here who had been at the Hmeymim airbase and filmed the preparations for combat sorties, take-offs and landing for nearly 24 hours a day. No one even asked about this type of munitions.

That is because there are no such munitions at the Russian air base in Syria.

In response Bellingcat and the Conflict Investigation Team published images taken from RT (Russia Today), Sputnik, and even the Russian Defence Ministry’s own social media sites showing RBK series cluster munitions at the Hmeymim airbase, clearly contradicting the Russian Defence Ministry’s claims. Amnesty International also consulted a munitions expert about images from Hmeymim airbase who said “he was “confident” that many of them were indeed of Russian aircraft armed with RBK-500 cluster munitions” (page 4).

Despite these clear images and expert opinion, some have attempted to claim the bombs featured in the images were in fact OFAB 250-270 high explosive fragmentation bombs, not RBK series cluster bombs as claimed. However, it is possible to see clear differences between the RBK series cluster munitions featured in the images from Hmeymim, and the OFAB 250-270.

RBK series cluster munitions come in a selection of designs, depending on the submunition and size of the bomb. For example, the RBK-500 series cluster munitions, as seen on Russian jets in Syria, come in several varieties with differing external features. Examples include the RBK-500 ZAB-2.5MRBK-500 AO-2.5RT, RBK-500U, and RBK-500 PTAB-1M.

However, the OFAB 250-270 has distinct features that are clearly different from the RBK series bombs. OFAB 250-270s are featured in many of the videos from Hmeymim airbase, providing many reference images for comparison to RBK series cluster munitions. The most obvious difference is the rear of the bomb:

OFAB 250-270 tail fins

In the above image of the rear of an OFAB 250-270 at Hmeymim airbase (source) we can see a pair of “tail rings”, and that the rear of the main part of the bomb does not extend to the end of the tail section. In the below image (source) we see a RBK series cluster munition mounted on a jet in Hmeymim airbase where we can clearly see the differences:

RBK Rear

Only one “tail ring” is present, and the main section of the bomb extends fully to the end of the tail section. This can be seen more clearly in this photograph of a model of a RBK-500 ShOAB-0.5 cluster bomb at Ukraine’s State Aviation Museum (source):

RBK 500 ShOAB 0.5 Model CITeam

Another clear difference is the front of the OFAB 250-270, with a distinct ridge before the front of the bomb, a slight dome on the front, and a single large fuze (source)

OFAB 250-270 nose

In a Svoboda.org article on cluster bombs at Hmeymim airbase two images from the airbase show what are believed to be RBK-500 AO 2.5 RTM cluster munitions, clearly showing the front of these munitions are very different from those of the OFAB 250-270

RBK-500 AO2.5 RTM 1 RBK-500 AO2.5 RTM 2

No RBK-500 series cluster munition share the features of the OFAB 250-270s described above, therefore claims that the munitions featured in reports about Russian cluster bombs at Hmeymim airbase show OFAB 250-270 are clearly and demonstrably untrue.

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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304 Comments

    • Andrea

      Thanks, now we have something to speak about!

      The aim of those links is to prove the caspian flottila launched some old missles, isn’t it?

      Well, then i can say:
      1) Kalibr missle has wings…just see wiki And if i want i can stop here… and have your theory debunked
      2) I gave you a quotation of Sergey Yekimov, a deputy commander of the Caspian Fleet …saying they launched 18 Kalibrs on nov 20th (because there were many different launches)
      3) The quality of that video is so bad that is pretty much impossible to see details
      4) You are all of a sudden an expert? able to identify from that video the missle type? Then i don’t see why you are so angry if Bellingcat do the same on pictures with better details visible !

      Fianlly…these were the links for one of your claims…the others (ships and planes travelling anyway, free fuel and ammo

      Reply
      • Randy Dread

        yes, they call them all Kalibrs.

        the new missiles dont really have wings. just little stubs if anything.

        and they have a square profile, being stealthy.

        the new ones are designated KH101.

        Reply
        • Andrea

          “they call them all Kalibrs” *source needed…
          cause i can see only one missile (and his variants) called 3M-54 Kalibr with a precise shape and pretty well visible wings and your Kh101-Kh55 being different… have even different NATO nicknames …
          And i read in many topics about this great new “kalibr class” of missiles…

          Reply
  1. Randy Dread

    sorry Andrea I posted links and videos as requested but now my comment is stuck in moderation.

    Reply
  2. Randy Dread

    all very weird as usual.

    why do these people bugger about with supposedly live munitions and not get blown up ever.

    Reply
    • Andrea

      Was thinking about it too…
      Regular bombs have a fuze that isn’t inserted in the bomb until it’s ready to be dropped (and have safety pins) … cluster bombs instead ae already closed at the production plant and therefore submunitions must be live as soon as it is produced…so they probably have a fuze that must be able to sustain all the movements of the bomb itself (the flight of an aircraft isn’t so smooth)…obviously falling on the ground from a certain height will be enough to set the boom.
      And regular handling don’t produce enough stress to activate the fuze
      Realistic? Just trying to find an explanation…

      Reply
      • Randy Dread

        Many children were killed in Afghanistan from picking up unexploded US cluster munitions.

        If they’ve landed and not detonated they are very unstable and unsafe to handle in any way.

        Reply
        • Randy Dread

          Oh and in Lebanon as well. A few kids found Israeli ones in the fields and took them home. Got blown up along with their families.

          Reply
          • Andrea

            That’s why is better not to use them 😛 and for sure to persuade your allieds not to do so…
            But we don’t know how those were handled … neither their type …

            maybe is very simple to deactivate them if properly handled …

            maybe, maybe, maybe 😉

        • Mad Dog

          Wow, that is some real misinformation. The whole matter of cluster bombs came about because of the prolific use by the Sovs in Afghanistan, decades ago. Please get your information straight. I was kept up to date on that situation while i was working for Amnesty.

          Reply
  3. Randy Dread

    Andrea – February 7th, 2016
    maybe is very simple to deactivate them if properly handled …

    maybe, maybe, maybe ?

    Maybe.

    Reply
  4. Randy Dread

    Has there been any other war zone in history where people have been going around collecting unexploded cluster bombs and messing about with them in this manner?

    Have there been any verifiable reports of anyone dying from picking up one of these bombs?

    Given the large number of these videos, have any human rights groups or any other organisations published any advice to locals in Syria about what to do if they see such a bomb?

    Reply
      • Randy Dread

        I don’t find the videos entirely credible for reasons I have indicated.

        I have no doubt that the bombs in the videos are real,

        I tend to think they are not live and perhaps were never dropped from planes in the first place but maybe captured from an airbase.

        Reply
  5. Randy Dread

    Andrea – February 7th, 2016
    4) You are all of a sudden an expert? able to identify from that video the missle type? Then i don’t see why you are so angry if Bellingcat do the same on pictures with better details visible !

    I don’t claim to be an expert. Take my commentary or leave it.

    Reply
  6. Andrea

    Stop moderating all comments -.-”

    There has never been spam of links and for sure not strong language !

    Reply
  7. Randy Dread

    Anyway, here’s the SU35 supermanouverable jet currently deployed in Syria.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Mocle6Wzk

    Let’s face it, if the Russians feel like handing out cluster bombs like candy in Syria, there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it.

    Victory to Russia. Victory to Assad. Death to the terrorists.

    Reply
    • Mad Dog

      Egads Man, you man, you are sicker than I imagined! (Besides, you forgot Death to Innocents in your little display of false bravado).

      Reply
    • Andrea

      Randy, it seems that when you end “””valid””” trolling comments you come out with this comment again and again…
      You really think that coming out of a war with your country in ruins, millions of displaced citizens is actually a win ?

      You think that gaining land control means all those that nowdays are rebels/terrorists will disappear?

      Reply

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