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FAB-3000 M54 / Open-source photo

How Possible is to Turn 3-ton FAB-3000 Dumb Superbomb into a Smart Glide Munition and Which Aircraft can Lift It

FAB-3000 M54 / Open-source photo
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Despite russian unofficial statement that a Su-34 frontline bomber can easily take a FAB-3000 enhanced with the UMPK guidance kit, it is not entirely true

Sergei Shoigu, Minister of Defense of russia, visited the 53 Arsenal company in the village of Yuganets, Nizhny Novgorod region, where he was demonstrated FAB-3000 free-falling bombs among other products of the enterprise. This bomb is one of the most powerful weapons in the russian air-launched arsenal, it was extensively used during the siege of Mariupol, Ukraine, in spring 2022.

The variant called FAB-3000 M54 weighs 3,067 kg including the warhead of 1,200 kg. Upon detonation on the ground, it creates a crater at least 15 meters deep. People get severe shellshock hundreds of meters away from ground zero. However, russian forces currently cannot use them because dropping such a bomb requires approaching the target and therefore entering hostile airspace controlled by air defense systems.

Read more: 1.5-Ton FAB-1500 Became a Guided Glide Bomb with UMPK Kit, russian Sources Claim
Two FAB-3000 and three FAB-1500 inthe workshop of the 53 Arsenal / Defense Express / How Possible is to Turn 3-ton FAB-3000 Dumb Superbomb into a Smart Glide Munition and Which Aircraft can Lift It
Two FAB-3000 and three FAB-1500 inthe workshop of the 53 Arsenal / Still frame of the video published by the russian defense ministry

Still, the russians managed to bypass the limitation by using UMPK — kits comprising wings with flight control surfaces and guidance systems — to turn similar lighter weapons like FAB-250, FAB-500, and FAB-1500 into glide bombs with an autonomous flight range of approximately 70 km, i.e. far enough to call them standoff weapons. This situation calls for two questions:

  • is it possible to equip the biggest of bombs, the FAB-3000 with UMPK, and why is it important for the russians
  • which russian aircraft will be able to carry and launch the FAB-3000 bombs enhanced with UMPK

Since the advent of UMPK, russians have been heavily investing in this novelty and have already come up with ways to install the kits on large-sized bombs. For example, they managed to fit it onto the FAB-1500 (the digit number referring to the weight of 1,500 kilograms, accordingly) but it required a complete re-design of the existing UMPK "from scratch." According to a russian source, the glider and all mechanisms of the kit were altered.

A FAB-1500 equipped with an UMPK glide and guidance kit / Defense Express / How Possible is to Turn 3-ton FAB-3000 Dumb Superbomb into a Smart Glide Munition and Which Aircraft can Lift It
A FAB-1500 equipped with an UMPK glide and guidance kit / Photo source: russian media

That said, UMPK is yet to be seen with the 3-ton FAB-3000 bomb. The most logical way for the russian engineers would be to use the ready-made solution and try to improve it, a process that might take a while but is still quicker than making a completely new device. The experience with smaller bombs would speed up the process, too, allowing to test, refine the development, and launch mass production as soon as possible.

But the real challenge starts when it comes to the carrier. After all, the Tu-22M3 strategic bomber remains the only standard aircraft for deploying a weapon of such mass. Back in the day, when it was sent to drop FAB-3000s on Mariupol, the city held by Ukrainian defenders had already been surrounded and there was no risk of catching an anti-aircraft missile.

In theory, the Tu-22M3 will be able to lift the FAB-3000 on its external hardpoints, even if the bomb's original dimensions will increase due to the UMPK kit. Nevertheless, it's doubtful that Moscow will choose to risk the valuable aircraft in conditions where there is even a minimal risk of meeting a "wandering Patriot," which is assumed to be responsible for taking down russian aircraft trying to launch UMPK-enhanced glide bombs.

FAB-3000 in the internal bomb bay of a Tu-22M3 / Defense Express / How Possible is to Turn 3-ton FAB-3000 Dumb Superbomb into a Smart Glide Munition and Which Aircraft can Lift It
FAB-3000 in the internal bomb bay of a Tu-22M3 / Open-source illustrative photo

The reason to be extra wary is because the speed of recovery for the old Tu-22M3 from the Soviet stocks lags behind all schedules, and the real number in flight-capable condition is another question: on paper, less than 60 units can fly. Ukrainian effective attacks on russian airfields hosting Tu-22M3s have contributed to that as well.

Therefore, most likely, the russian forces may try to launch the FAB-3000 with UMPK from Su-34 frontline bombers, in a similar way they already use FAB-1500s with UMPK. However, the Su-34 is not a full-time carrier of the FAB-3000, so this is not a trivial task to adapt one for this kind of mission.

Some russian sources have already begun to insist that just like the Su-34 can lift the PTB-3000 (a drop tank with additional fuel), the FAB-3000 can fit too. Contrary to their expectations, the weight of PTB-3000 is less than 3,000 kg. The weight of 3,050 liters of kerosene (capacity of this tank) is 2,440 kg, the container itself weighs about 300 kg. Also, a FAB-3000 combined with UMPK weighs far more than 3,000 kg, as metal wings, the frame, and avionics are not particularly lightweight either. Unfortunately, there is no credible data about the weight of the kit itself.

Su-34 with the PTB-3000 directly under its belly / Defense Express / How Possible is to Turn 3-ton FAB-3000 Dumb Superbomb into a Smart Glide Munition and Which Aircraft can Lift It
Su-34 with the PTB-3000 directly under its belly / Open-source illustrative photo

The Su-34 presumably can lift a payload of 4 tons on the central pylon, at least the carrier-based Su-33 was demonstrated at military exhibitions carrying a Kh-41 Moskit anti-ship missile weighing 3.9 tons.

But weight aside, what's no less important is the dimensions of the FAB-3000 with UMPK. The bomb itself with a stabilizer has a diameter of 1,002 mm but it will increase once the UMPK is installed, particularly, the kit has its own vertical stabilizers. Therefore, the question of whether the weapon can fit or not depends on the clearance of the aircraft (the distance from the ground to the fuselage). Another issue that needs to be addressed is the bomb rack, i.e. the suspension system, which must be able to withstand such a heavy load. Defense Express could not find information about the weight capacity of Su-34's bomb racks.

That is, despite the russians being sure their Su-34s will easily carry a FAB-3000 enhanced with UMPK, the reality is more complicated. Making it possible will require not just making a wing robust enough but solving a number of other entailed issues as well. That being said, the russians are sure they can find the solutions, have already approached the answers, or even figured them out. Therefore, the appearance of such weapons in the arsenal of the russian invasion forces is a very likely and extremely threatening scenario to the Ukrainian Defense Forces.

The only alternative to this is that the Kremlin is confident it may again have the opportunity to use the free-falling FAB-3000 from Tu-22M3 bombers with impunity.

Tu-22M3 strategic bomber / Defense Express / How Possible is to Turn 3-ton FAB-3000 Dumb Superbomb into a Smart Glide Munition and Which Aircraft can Lift It
Tu-22M3 strategic bomber / Open-source illustrative photo
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