Special Computing Subsystem 24

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

The Russian Air Force, now known as the Russian AirSpace Force, has been able to maintain a high tempo of operations in Syria, launching a high volume of precision munitions surprisingly cheaply:

Instead of mounting a kit on an old bomb and losing the kit every time, the Russians mounted a JDAM-like kit, but on the airplane.

Introducing the SVP-24:


SVP stands for “special computing subsystem”. What this system does is that it constantly compares the position of the aircraft and the target (using the GLONASS satellite navigation system), it measures the environmental parameters (pressure, humidity, windspeed, speed, angle of attack, etc.). It can also receive additional information from datalinks from AWACs aircraft, ground stations, and other aircraft. The SVP-24 then computes an “envelope” (speed, altitude, course) inside which the dumb bombs are automatically released exactly at the precise moment when their unguided flight will bring them right over the target (with a 3-5m accuracy).

In practical terms this means that every 30+ year old Russian “dumb” bomb can now be delivered by a 30+ year old Russian aircraft with the same precision as a brand new guided bomb delivered by a top of the line modern bomber.

Not only that, but the pilot does not even have to worry about targeting anything. He just enters the target’s exact coordinates into his system, flies within a defined envelope and the bombs are automatically released for him. He can place his full attention on detecting any hostiles (aircraft, missiles, AA guns). And the best part of this all is that this system can be used in high altitude bombing runs, well over the 5000m altitude which MANPADs cannot reach. Finally, clouds, smoke, weather conditions or time of the day play no role in this whatsoever.

Last, but not least, this is a very cheap solution. Russian can now use the huge stores of ‘dumb’ bombs they have accumulated during the Cold War, they can bring an infinite supply of such bombs to Syria and every one of them will strike with phenomenal accuracy. And since the SVP-24 is mounted on the aircraft and not the bomb, it can be reused as often as needed.

(Hat tip to Randall Parker.)


  1. Andreas says:

    When NASA needed a writing instrument to work in zero-gravity conditions, they spent tens of thousands of dollars to develop the “Space Pen“, which used a pressurized ink cartridge.

    The Russians sent up pencils.

  2. Isegoria says:

    The Space Pen story is, alas, a myth:

    Both U.S. astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts initially used pencils on space flights, but those writing instruments were not ideal: pencil tips can flake and break off, and having such objects floating around space capsules in near-zero gravity posed a potential harm to astronauts and equipment. (As well, after the fatal Apollo 1 fire in 1967, NASA was anxious to avoid having astronauts carry flammable objects such as pencils onboard with them.)

    When the solution of providing astronauts with a ballpoint pen that would work under weightless conditions and extreme temperatures came about, though, it wasn’t because NASA had thrown hundreds of thousands of dollars (inflated to $12 billion in the latest iterations of this tale) in research and development money at the problem. The “space pen” that has since become famous through its use by astronauts was developed independently by Paul C. Fisher of the Fisher Pen Co., who spent his own money on the project and, once he perfected his AG-7 “Anti-Gravity” Space Pen, offered it to NASA. After that agency tested and approved the pen’s suitability for use in space flights, they purchased a number of the instruments from Fisher for a modest price.

  3. The SVP-24′s a good piece of equipment; we had something just like it on our carrier-borne tactical bombers starting in the late 60′s. The drawback to such systems (and a big part of why we went to smart-bombs) is that they require the pilot to fly straight and level during the last leg of the bomb run, when he’s also most vulnerable to ground fire. If I remember correctly this was referred to as “earning your pay.”

    Of course if you have a huge stockpile of dumb bombs, an aircraft that comes equipped with the SVP-24 as standard (SU-25), and you’re bombing an enemy with very limited AA capability then it’s a match made in heaven. That is the situation Russia’s in right now in Syria.

  4. Jay Dugger says:

    I suspect the report of exaggeration. I saw no sources at the original, and the closing comment about corruption sounds like the preceding patagraphs simply led into a shot at the usual suspects.

    It could be possible in principle, but if done, would imptove inputs to only one part of the fire control problem. Comparison to a JDAM kit, which improves inputs different part of the fire control problem, makes an inconsistent comparison.

    If this makes a big improvement over the previous Russian accuracy standard, then good for them. If it also improves over Western or American standards, then even better, and it deserves copying. Determining which, if either, is true and if that improvement issues from this hardware upgrade instead of combat experience sounds hard to me. BDA supposedly proves difficult to do with accuracy.

  5. Slovenian Guest says:

    It’s cheap, compared to $25k a piece JDAM kits.

    “$25k may be insignificant for a $600B defense budget, but for smaller budgets, it adds up. Consider that Russia has dropped over 5000 bombs in Syria. That adds up to $125 mil just on bomb kits alone. That’s money that can go to other areas.”

    To quote a reddit commenter.

  6. Dan Kurt says:

    Déjà vu all over again moment.

    Go back in time to the early to mid 1960s development and view the Ling-Temco-Vought A-7 Corsair II. Yes, it didn’t have GPS, but it had the “black box” that permitted STAND OFF delivery of iron bombs with great accuracy, e.g., release circa 15 miles from target. Half a century later the Russians have joined the party. We had the capability then, so I think the USA still has it today in a better form and could do the same should it want.

  7. Dave says:

    This digital remake of the Norden bombsight cannot be as precise as self-steering bombs, because the wind speed and direction change as the bomb falls through different air masses. But it’s good enough for the Russians, who don’t worry as much about collateral damage.

  8. Gaikokumaniakku says:

    “…it’s good enough for the Russians, who don’t worry as much about collateral damage.”

    Funny, whenever I try to get solid numbers measuring collateral damage by USA forces, they always tell me that they don’t do body counts.

  9. Lucklucky says:

    Whoever wrote this is an ignoramus who doesn’t know that this stuff existed long ago, in both the West and the USSR.

  10. Lucklucky says:

    In practical terms this means that every 30+ year old Russian “dumb” bomb can now be delivered by a 30+ year old Russian aircraft with the same precision as a brand new guided bomb delivered by a top of the line modern bomber.

    And that is totally false.

  11. Lu An Li says:

    That signal to drop the bombs an be jammed?

    This appears to be disinformation to me? Like with the drawing of the secret super-torpedo recently inadvertently shown on TV.

  12. Sam J. says:

    I worked on F4′s in the 80′s and we had the same thing then. Analog and digital systems. The disadvantage was noted earlier. The pilot had to hold a bomb button, “piper” if I remember correctly, and the bombing computer in conjunction with the Inertial Nav. Sys. would release the bomb. They could also sling the bombs while pulling up to stay away from the targets. I’m sure all modern planes have the same capability built in although I don’t have first hand knowledge that this is true.

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