Bellingcat

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

The Syrian Air Force's Largest Incendiary Bomb Identified

Since November 2012 the Syrian Air Force has deployed an increasing variety of incendiary munitions. In November ZAB 2.5 incendiary cluster submunitions joined the cluster munitions being deployed in Syria, followed by ZAB 100-105 incendiary bombs at the end of the month, then FZAB-500M high explosive incendiary bombs at the start of 2013.  I've now managed to piece together the clues that point to a fourth incendiary bomb being deployed


This video from Andan, Aleppo, shows the remains of a bomb, described as a white phosphorus bomb, and as it's filmed flashes of light can be seen from inside the remains of the casing.  If there's one thing anyone following Syria has learnt it's you shouldn't take Youtube descriptions are being accurate, so lets look at the bomb.

Despite being badly damaged there's three main clues to it's identity.  Firstly the tail fin configuration and remains of the front end point to it being one of two types of bomb.  The front end of the bomb in the video is badly damaged, but matches the front end of an RBK-500 cluster bomb and ZAB-500 incendiary bomb.  The video quality is too poor to be able to see it too clearly, but the images below give you an idea of how close the match is

Syrian video
RBK-500

ZAB-500
The ZAB-500 and RBK-500 have virtually identical casings, so the tail-fin configuration also matches

Syran video

RBK-500

ZAB-500,
So that's two clues pointing to two possible types of bomb.  Fortunately there is one difference that's very clear, and that's what's at the center of the tail fins.

Syrian video

RBK-500

ZAB-500
As you can see the RBK-500 and ZAB-500 have very different patterns in the middle of the tail fins, and the video clearly matches the ZAB-500.  I now believe ZAB-500 bombs have been used since at least February 2013, with what I suspect is the first video of their use here.

According to CAT-UXO
The ZAB  (Incendiary) 500kg bomb is a thin cased incendiary bomb, which is designed to produce destructive effect through extreme heat and fire (caused by the incendiary filling).
The casing is cylindrical, parallel sided (except at the tail) and approximately 5mm thick.
The bomb has a High Explosive bursting charge contained in a central tube and is surrounded by a second tube containing White Phosphorus as an ignition charge.
The Incendiary main filling surrounds the ignition charge assembly and is contained in a sheet metal cylinder so that the bomb has an inner and outer casing. 
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Video Shows Captured SA-16 And SA-24 Surface To Air Missiles
Unexploded Cluster Bomblets Repurposed As DIY Rocket Warheads

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

6 comments:

  1. "Oooh. Looks like a giant bomb."
    ...
    "Let's poke it with a stick!"

    Seriously though, (although I doubt they were any danger with this one) be careful with UXOs.

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  2. Congratulations! I suggest you to add the image of the 0.35 sec of the Syrian video, that reveals clearly the salient metal at the front end of the ZAB-500.

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  3. Honestly, the incendiary bombs the SAF is using don't seem to be particularly effective. At least compared to the regular high explosive bombs.

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  4. sorry for being off topic but AA rocket is this?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDdqRfNf6KA&feature=youtu.be

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  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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