Ukrainian Air Force strike Lugansk with S-8KOM rockets

Update 4/6/14: The OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) released a statement yesterday which included some observations on this attack:

In Luhansk the situation remained volatile. On 2 June, shortly after 15:00 hrs, rockets hit the occupied regional administration building. Based on the SMM’s limited observation these strikes were the result of non-guided rockets shot from an aircraft. The number of casualties is unknown.

Update 3/6/14: There have been suggestions that the photo of S-8 rocket debris seen below, claimed to have been taken in Lugansk following the attack, may have been from a previous engagement. Without that image, it is not possible to definitively state which specific type of rockets were fired in this incident. S-8 rockets, and the S-8KOM in particular, remain a strong possibility.

Yesterday’s Ukrainian Air Force strike on the regional administration building in Lugansk generated a flurry of media and social media responses. Many pro-Russian news outlets have claimed that cluster munitions were used, or that unexploded submunitions were found near the impact site. Whilst that is certainly possible, the evidence that has come to light thus far indicates that S-8KOM high explosive anti-tank air-to-surface rockets were fired from a Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-25, perhaps in conjunction with strafing fire from its Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-2 30 x 165 mm dual-barrel autocannon. The S-8 rockets were likely launched from B-8M1 rocket pods, each capable of carrying up to 20 rockets.

The S-8 family is comprised of unguided air-to-surface rockets of 80 mm calibre, produced in several variants including HEAT, flechette, and illuminating payloads, amongst others. S-8 rockets were developed after the Soviet Union’s experiences with S-5 57 mm rockets in Afghanistan, which proved insufficient (read more on the S-5 series and their employment, here.). The S-8KOM is a HEAT rocket with an additional fragmentation sleeve (HEAT-Frag). It is stated as being capable of penetrating 400 mm of rolled homogeneous armour (RHA).  Its technical specifications are as follows:

Calibre: 80 mm
Overall length: 1570 mm
Overall weight: 11.3 kg
Warhead weight: 3.6 kg
Speed: 610 m/s
Range: 1300 – 4000 m

Some of the S-8 series rockets are shown in the image below (original source unknown). The S-8KOM can be seen at far right. Note the fragmentation sleeve (coil type).


An image purporting to show remnants of the munitions used in the strike was posted on Twitter. You can make out ‘8KOM’. 



Whilst it is possible that cluster munitions were employed, no evidence has yet come to light. The impact of the munitions is partially visible in the video below.

With thanks to Amy Little and James Miller.