TechRussian heavy flamethrower system takes hit from Ukrainian drones

Russian heavy flamethrower system takes hit from Ukrainian drones

A Ukrainian drone dropped mortar shells on the TOS-1A system.
A Ukrainian drone dropped mortar shells on the TOS-1A system.
Images source: © X (formerly Twitter) | Ukrainian Front
8:04 AM EDT, April 18, 2024

A Revolver 860 and "Baba Jaga" drone recently targeted the formidable Russian TOS-1A system and a BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle near Krasnohorivka. This action highlights the capabilities of one of Russia's most fearsome weapons employed in Ukraine.

Close to Krasnohorivka, Ukrainian drone operators successfully attacked, either destroying or significantly damaging the Russian heavy flamethrower system TOS-1A. They utilized 60 mm caliber mortar projectiles dropped from the Baba Jaga drone or its Taiwanese counterpart, the Revolver 860.

These drones, either from heavy industrial or agricultural backgrounds, are modified to carry munitions such as 60 mm mortar projectiles to be deployed against Russian forces from a significant height. Notably, the latest versions are equipped with thermal imaging cameras, similar to the enhancements seen in the Revolver 860 drones provided by Taiwan.

It's crucial to note that losing even one TOS-1A system is a considerable setback for Russia, which had around 50 units before the conflict. These specialized systems use thermobaric charges to obliterate enemy forces in heavily fortified positions.

Thermobaric Weapons: Bringing Literal "Hell on Earth"

The TOS-1A, incorporated into the Russian military during the intervention in Afghanistan, has shown exceptional effectiveness against foes sheltered in fortifications or urban settings.

At its core, the system features a 24-rocket launcher mounted on the widely used T-72 tank chassis. Each 220 mm diameter rocket is packed with up to 99 pounds of thermobaric material, capable of unleashing massive destructive power that is hard to defend against.

Thermobaric explosives differ from traditional ones by not including oxygen in their composition, allowing for a larger quantity of combustible material. For the explosion to occur, oxygen from the surrounding air is essential, creating a vacuum upon detonation.

This effect leads to catastrophic outcomes, including outward shock waves and inward rebound waves from the vacuum, generating pressure spikes that can damage aircraft skins and human organs.

While the skull somewhat shields the human brain, the agonizing death of individuals caught in the blast radius is inevitable. Other explosion outcomes include the consumption of oxygen in the vicinity and temperatures reaching up to 5432 degrees Fahrenheit at the impact site, essentially vaporizing all life forms.

Given these horrific effects, thermobaric weapons have earned the moniker "the poor man's nuclear weapon" due to the extent of devastation they cause, minus the radiation. The weapon's lethality increases in enclosed spaces, where shockwaves resonate.

The detonation of thermobaric warheads happens in two phases: first, dispersing the thermobaric aerosol, then igniting the air-fuel mixture by a delayed fuse. However, a slight advantage for the Ukrainians is the TOS-1A system's limited range of about 3.7 miles and imprecision due to the absence of a guidance system in the rockets.

This vulnerability, combined with the system's distinct profile, renders the TOS-1A launcher a top target for drone and anti-tank guided missile operators, such as those using the Stugna-P. Damaging just one of the launcher's exposed rockets can initiate a chain reaction, leading to a colossal blast.

Related content