“Drell,” the most recent Russian glide bomb, has successfully passed all the tests the State Department of Defence undertook. According to TASS, ammunition production in serial quantities will begin in 2024.
“At the moment, the product has passed all types of tests defined by the customer. Information about the use of the products in the air defence zone is classified. In 2024, the production of the first serial batch of the ‘Drell’ air bomb is planned,” said the representatives of the state corporation Rostec.
Rostec added that developing some warheads for the bombs is underway simultaneously.
The “Drell” air bomb is intended to destroy armoured vehicles, ground-based radar stations, power plant control locations, and anti-aircraft missile systems. The prototype of the new air bomb was announced in 2016.
What is already known about the ‘Drell’ Bomb
This bomb has a complicated past. Its development has been ongoing for the last 20 years, with varied degrees of success. The project has been put on hold and then resumed multiple times. The developer of this ammunition, the Scientific Manufacturing Association “Bazalt,” a subsidiary of Techmash, a part of “Rostec,” has repeatedly stated that their product will be ready for serial manufacturing.
The new air bomb is intended for fifth-generation fighter aircraft like the Su-57. However, the versatility of the munition lies in the fact that it can be installed on aircraft that are already in existence today. The “Drell” is capable of being transported by strategic bombers like the Tu-22M, Tu-160M2, and Tu-95MSM, as well as tactical aviation aircraft like the Su-25SM3, Su-24, Su-35, Su-34, and Su-30SM.
The “Drell” is a huge bomb the size of a compact passenger car. It is 3.1 metres in length and weighs 540 kilograms. The PBK-500U differs from traditional air bombs because it does not need to be dropped directly over the target. The munition can glide for more than 30 kilometres after being launched from the carrier. This enables combat planes to destroy objectives while avoiding strong anti-aircraft fire.
At around 250 metres, the “Drell” disintegrates into 15 self-guided submunitions, each weighing 15 kg. These are self-contained explosives, each with its mission. At the journey’s end, they disconnect from the “Drell” and descend on parachutes guided by radar and infrared sensors. The target can be entered into the guidance system before or during flight. The PBK-500U works on the “fire and forget” principle, which eliminates the requirement for the operator to track the target until it is hit. The GLONASS system is used to achieve spatial positioning and orientation. When electronic warfare devices jam satellite communications, an alternative technique for obtaining the desired location exists. A specific algorithm in the munition compares the topography to electronic map data stored in the bomb’s memory. If the GLONASS signal is suppressed, the “Drell” can additionally use laser and television guiding.
The primary benefit of this type of munition is its low cost mixed with adequate accuracy and flying range. It combines the advantages of both conventional free-fall bombs and aircraft missiles. The “Drell” differs from conventional air bombs in that it has minimal observability, which is done by lowering the effective scattering area, making it virtually invisible to radars. The “Drell” has no engine, emits no heat, and does not appear on the thermal imaging spectrum. As a result, it is impervious to missiles with infrared homing heads. A guided bomb is difficult to detect, making air defence systems difficult to intercept. The PBK-500U autonomously covers the distance to the target.
The munition may not hit the target. It follows the concept of clustering or accuracy of hits. A mechanism exists that effectively executes self-destruction on a munition after a specified duration in the absence of any prior detonation on a particular target.
The PBK-500U “Drell” is designed to destroy opposing tanks. Because it hits the least defended upper area of the combat vehicle, a hit almost always results in the target’s destruction. Furthermore, it may engage group targets: one air bomb, according to NPO “Bazalt,” can destroy up to six tanks. The greatest efficiency of the bomb will be displayed against moving tank columns. This munition can also target stationary fortified targets such as command and control posts, bunkers, and ground-based radars.
The “Drell” is said to include a friend-or-foe recognition mechanism, allowing it to be employed in close-quarters tank battles: the munition can precisely identify enemy vehicles on the ground even while in action. However, the specifics of how this technology will be deployed remain unknown. The bomb’s navigation mechanism is likewise yet unclear.