Following the recent delivery of the TOS-1A “Solntsepek” to Russian airborne forces, a US defense expert has called for the destruction of the Solntsepek heavy flamethrower system before it reaches its planned deployment location.
Since the beginning of the Ukrainian conflict, Russia has been utilizing thermobaric rocket launchers in Ukraine. On March 3, the Russian defense ministry announced that their airborne units were now equipped with the formidable TOS-1A Solntsepek.
The ministry labeled the Solntsepek (Blazing Sun) as a weapon that “causes panic,” adding that their paratroopers en route to Ukraine would utilize this artillery system.
Moscow has stated that this is the “first time” that their airborne troops have been armed with a “heavy flamethrower.”
One Russian colonel told the troops that they were being given highly fearsome weapons that have no counterparts in the collective Western arsenals and strike fear among Russia’s foes. “I am confident their skillful use will bring our victory closer,” he added.
Russian TOS-1 thermobaric weapon systems are also being employed in the central area of Bakhmut, where Russian and Ukrainian forces have been engaged in a prolonged and intense battle. A video circulating on the internet shows the descent of the thermobaric in Bakhmut.
Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, shared footage on Twitter that captures the precise moment the missiles made contact with the ground, resulting in widespread damage and massive flames.
On April 4, journalist Julia Davis posted a Russian state media broadcast on Twitter where the topic of thermobaric weapons was brought up.
During the conversation centered on the bombardment of important cities in Ukraine, Vladimir Solovyov, a state television host and Kremlin propagandist, pushed for the continued use of thermobaric weapons and demanded more bloodshed and destruction.
The Solntsepek weapon system has emerged as a critical element of the Russian military’s operations in Ukraine, predominantly employed to launch a concentrated assault on Ukrainian forces.
This is one of the reasons why US-based military experts express concerns regarding the system’s potential to cause significant damage on the battlefield when deployed against Ukraine.
David Hambling, a US-based defense expert, suggests that the best way to defeat this weapon system is to swiftly detect their whereabouts and take out the launchers before they get into action.
Hambling added that the Russian Solntsepek heavy flamethrower weapons are very powerful and crucial in the Russian military. The expert also raised apprehensions about the extent of damage that this weapon system could inflict on Ukrainian infrastructure.
Furthermore, the Russian defense ministry also noted that the TOS-1A has a devastating impact, including the destruction of infrastructure and the potential for significant harm to internal organs and flash burns, ultimately leading to the death of those exposed.
What Makes Russia’s Thermobaric Rocket Launchers So Dangerous?
The TOS-1 or TOS-1A is a multiple rocket launcher with either 30 or 24 barrels equipped with thermobaric warheads. It was created to target troops and forces in fortified positions, lightly armored vehicles, and transports in open areas.
Lt Col JS Sodhi (Retd), an ex-Indian Army officer, explained that a thermobaric MLRS bomb utilizes oxygen from the surrounding atmosphere to produce an extremely high-temperature explosion, thus creating a kind of vacuum.
Sodhi told the EurAsian Times that this weapon is “very dangerous” because the initial explosive charge detonates upon impact with the target, causing the fuel container to disperse with the surrounding oxygen and destroying everything in its vicinity.
“These blast waves of a thermobaric weapon last longer than those of a conventional explosive,” he added. The goal of these weapons is specifically to cause damage to buildings, infrastructure, and the enemy force’s personnel.
The USSR and Russian military utilized the TOS-1A weapon in conflicts such as Afghanistan, Chechnya, and, more recently, in Ukraine since the beginning of the all-out war in February 2022. Additionally, the US also used thermobaric weapons in the 1960s.
“Though the United Nations Convention bans such bombs on Certain Conventional Weapons, four countries, namely the USA, Russia, China, and the United Kingdom, possess such bombs,” the retired Indian Army officer highlighted.
Nevertheless, due to their indiscriminate and unconfined characteristics, strikes conducted by thermobaric weapons will likely result in civilian casualties.