Written by Hadi Gholami Nohouji exclusively for SouthFront
Since the beginning of the Russian aerial campaign in Syria there have been different kinds of analysis about the results, effectiveness and the costs of the operation of Russian Aerospace Forces (RuAF) while few have decided to focus on the details behind it.
At times the aerial attacks of the Russian forces have been described as inaccurate and analysts —mainly those critical of Russia in general— have questioned the effectiveness of an aerial campaign in which the bulk of the air force used are planes at least 30 years dated and lack many of the modern features that their western counterparts have.
Also a great part of the bombs and munitions used in the RuAF are from the late Cold War era and are mostly unguided —also known as “dumb bombs”— that do not have a guidance system of any sort and by themselves are very inaccurate.
Still, considering this situation and the financial hindrances and limitations Russia faces, the RuAF detachment in Syria, with the relatively low cost of almost $3 million a day (U.S’s campaign in Syria reportedly costs $12 million a day) has been able to significantly facilitate the advance of the Syrian army and its allies against its opponents whether they are of the Syrian Rebels or the Islamic State terrorists.
One of the main reasons for that would be the use of the SVP-24 guidance system. This weapons system is installed on the planes and allows them to drop the unguided bombs (mostly the OFAB bombs family) with a reported precision of 2 to 5 meters which is very good considering the fact that the bombs themselves do not have guidance systems.
It is important to note that this system has been installed on Su-25, Su-24M, Su-22M3 and even on the Kamov Ka-50 and Ka-52 attack helicopters while there have been unconfirmed reports that some have been installed on the L-39 trainers which are now being used as bombers.
The interesting part about these systems is the fact that the pilots are required to just fly over the target and the SVP-24 will first measure the environmental parameters (humidity, pressure, windspeed, speed, angle of attack, …), compares the position of the aircraft using the GLONASS system and then automatically releases the dumb bomb at the precise moment that they need to be released in order to hit its target.
Also this system reportedly works in all weather conditions and times of the day while also it is possible to use well over the 5000 meters altitude which is out of the range of Man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS).
It is worth noting the United States also came up with a solution to try to turn its dumb bombs into smart ones and it was the JDAM kit (Joint Direct Attack Munition) which would be installed on every unguided bomb and would turn it into a precision weapon.
Still, this kit costs 25,000 dollars per unit which overall makes the SVP-24 more cost effective since it is installed on the aircraft and can be reused any number of times is it required without having to install additional pieces on the bombs.
This system also gets additional info from datalinks from AWACS aircraft, ground stations and other aircrafts which can greatly contribute to the precision of the strike and reduce possible errors that could jeopardize the bombing.
The Russians claim this system has a very low error rate while media —mainly the western ones— question its accuracy and point to the fact that the system, as opposed to similar ones used by the U.S, can only track one target at a time in order to question its usefulness.
Still, this system, with all its problems, has proved to be useful in Syria and the latest advances of the Syria forces are testament to this while data shows that the Syrian government, with the help of the RuAF, has been able to recover vast areas in this Arab country.