Bellingcat

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Evidence Of Unguided Bombs Being Deployed By The Syrian Air Force

Over the past several months of the Syrian conflict there's been a great deal of evidence posted online and recently confirmed by the UN that helicopters have been used to attack opposition areas.  What's been unclear is exactly the range of weapons being used against opposition areas, with rocket and machine gun fire being the most common.  Two videos posted yesterday (highlighted by markito0171) indicate that as well as rockets and machine gun fire the Syrian air force is using unguided bombs

The cameraman claims these videos were filmed on June 27th in the Jabal Shehshebo region in the Hama countryside.  In the first video he says they were fired by helicopters, but in the second uses a more general term for aircraft.  It's of course impossible to verify any of these claims, so let's examine what we can see in the video. I believe what we are seeing in these videos are OFAB 250-270 High Explosive Fragmentation Bombs, and I've come to the conclusions by identifying a number of characteristics which I believe collectively are unique to that specific model of bomb. First, taken from here, a picture of (from left to right) of a P-50T training bomb, an OFAB-100-120, and an OFAB-250-270
To begin with CJ Chivers noted the configuration of the lug holes on the bomb casing.  This led me to examine them more closely, and in the below picture I've marked the lug holes you can see on the badly damaged bomb in the first video, the two red circled lug holes being on one side of the casing, visible on the above picture, and the single lug hole on the other side of the casing (as pictured here) circled in green, but not visible in the above picture
Other bombs in the range with two lug holes on one side are much larger, and don't share the very specific tail fin configuration on the OFAB-250-270.
In the above picture I've marked the tail fins in red and yellow boxes.  The red fins overlap go outside the outer edge, while the yellow fins stay inside the outer edge.  This same configuration can be seen clearly on this picture (taken from here), as well as the grooves stamped along the length of each fin
They also share the two concentric rings at the end of the tail fin, and if you examine this wide selection of bomb photographs you can see that the combination of the tail fin pattern, number and position of lug, and the concentric rings at the end of the tail fin strongly indicates the bombs are OFAB 250-270 High Explosive Fragmentation Bombs.  Add to that the cameraman estimating the bombs are about 50cm across, roughly the same as the OFAB 250-270 it seems that it's a pretty strong contender. While widely used on Russian made jets these bombs are also dropped by Hind helicopters, the below picture showing an example of a similar model in use (taken from here)
So there's a number of questions that need answering; where exactly were the bombs dropped? It seems clear they weren't dropped near any buildings, which may support Austin Tice's report that some of the pilots are purposely avoiding hitting targets, or flying to high to be effective
The tactics employed by helicopters observed in the past few weeks are a case in point.
Identified from photographs by an experienced American attack helicopter pilot as Russian-made MI-17s, which are designed both for transporting troops and cargo and for use as an attack aircraft, the helicopters typically fly in slow circles at altitudes between 1,500 and 2,000 feet. They fire unguided rockets and guns at apparently random or nonexistent targets and do not appear to employ guided missiles.
It's also interesting that the bombs appear to be in pretty good condition for high explosive fragmentation bombs.  Are they both duds?  One bomb even appears to be hollow, so could they be some sort of modified practice bombs?  There's many more questions that remain, and I'll be on the look out for more evidence of unguided bombs being used by the Syrian Air Force.

Update June 28th This video has been sent to me by @sherbalkis which supposedly shows the area hit shortly after impact
As you can see the bomb appears to have landed nowhere near any structures, which may suggest pilot error or a purposeful attempt to miss any targets.  

Update July 1st HamaEcho has sent me another video of the same kind of bomb, this time from Hawaijeh, Hama
Even though the bomb is badly damage it clearly shows the tail fins which match the OFAB 250-270, and like the bomb dropped above it was apparently dropped in a wide open space.  So yet again the question is was that done on purpose?

Update July 6th  A new video from Dier Ez Zor has been posted, showing a fully intact OFAB 250-270 that appears to have crashed through a roof and landed without detonating.  What's very interesting about this video is it shows various markings on the bomb, and if anyone knows what they mean I'd be very grateful if you let me know
Update July 11th - This video was posted on the same Youtube channel that also posted cluster bomblets from Jabal Shehshebo showing another OFAB casing
Updated July 17th The following video is from Talbiseh, and may show a OFAB actually being dropped by a helicopter
Update July 30th This video has been posted showing a helicopter in Daraa dropping what appears to be two OFABs

Update August 2nd This video from a suburb of Damascus was sent to me by HamaEcho and shows a small OFAB 100-120 bomb, identifiable by it's 4 tail fins, and the first example I've seen of this size bomb being used

Update August 2nd Two more videos have been posted to the above channel.  The first shows the OFAB after it's been moved, which is extremely dangerous and should never be attempted with UXO
I believe this next video might actually show the remains of a OFAB that detonated
A third video from Homs countryside has also been posted, showing another OFAB 100-120


Related Posts
Jets Spotted Above Aleppo Identified As Aero L-39 Albatroses, Not MiGs 
Evidence Of Cluster Bombs Being Deployed In Syria 
New Cluster Bomb Evidence Emerges From Syria   

Note - This replaces an earlier article that misidentified the bombs as only being dropped by jets.    
You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

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