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Russia is allegedly beginning mass-producing its PKB-500U Drel (‘drill’ in Russian) cluster gliding bombs that turn “dumb” gravity bombs into highly effective guided munitions that can wreak havoc on ground targets from a safe distance.
A statement by the Russian defense company Rostec states that the PKB-500U Drel has successfully passed all of its trials (some of which were conducted as part of the war with Ukraine). “To date, the product has passed all types of tests. The production of the first batch of the Drel aerial bomb is planned for 2024.”.
The Drel is designed to destroy armored vehicles, ground-based radar stations, power plant control centers, and anti-aircraft missile systems. Military analysts believe the Drel is highly resistant to jamming and radar detection, making it immensely difficult to destroy.
According to Interesting Engineering, gliding bombs are a cost-effective weapon that uses fins to increase the range of the original munition, and unlike missiles, they do not require expensive engines. High-flying warplanes can drop them without getting in the range of short-range enemy air defense systems, and modern versions are usually equipped with a guidance system to ensure precision.
Bazalt, the defense engineering lab that created the Drel, markets it as a sophisticated cluster weapon carrying 15 parachute-equipped submunitions that can be customized for specific targets such as radar stations or armored vehicles. It can be deployed from altitudes between 100 meters and 14 kilometers by aircraft flying at speeds of 700 kph to 1,100 kph. Its maximum range is 30km, and it weighs 540 kg.
it is important to note that cluster munitions are banned by over 100 countries. They disperse multiple smaller bombs that can indiscriminately kill people over a wide area, while the unexploded bombs can remain dangerous for several decades. Nevertheless, the developers claim that the cluster bombs are equipped with special programming to avoid harm to non-military targets.