What’s this? It’s a PTAB 2.5, properly named Противотанковая Авиабомба by the Soviet engineers who designed it many decades back. The Cyrillic in the preceding sentence transliterates to protivotankovaya aviabomba, which you can probably figure out from there: anti-tank aviation bomb. It’s actually a bomblet, a cluster submunition typically released from a dispenser dropped from a fixed-wing aircraft. Each bomblet carries a small shaped charge designed to penetrate armor. Of course it does more than cut through sheets of steel. If you are not behind something hard and thick, to use one example, when a descending swarm of these submunitions strikes the area nearby, the flying shrapnel will penetrate you.
One early dispenser of these submunitions was called Molotov’s bread basket (cf, newspaper clipping, above), although perhaps because this is a weapon that no street-fighter can expect to replicate, that name did not catch on quite the same was Molotov’s better known cocktail.
Why are these images of the PTAB 2.5 here? It’s not just to serve as a reminder that cluster bombs are not a recent scourge, and that they have roots trailing back into time. It’s not just that you should know your weapons. (Though you should.) It’s that all of the years and all of the wars after first being fielded, the PTAB 2.5, a munition developed under Stalin, will soon be back in the news. We’re running down fresh photos as I type this, and expect to have more up soon on the NYT’s At War blog.
Note: No, we have not yet solved the questions of provenance surrounding Libya’s mystery DPICM. We’re still sorting through fresh tips, assessments and replies, and will have an update on that tomorrow on At War, too.