Ukraine turns Russian TOS-1A thermobaric MLRS against the invader
Ukraine turns Russian TOS-1A thermobaric MLRS against the invader
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| Victor Riou | Source : Air&Cosmos 709 mots

Ukraine turns Russian TOS-1A thermobaric MLRS against the invader

Ukraine has already integrated nearly 3,000 pieces of Russian equipment captured mainly in the major counter-offensives of September and October 2022. After tanks, air defense systems and artillery pieces, a TOS-A1 thermobaric multiple missile launcher was observed in a Ukrainian convoy.

The recovery of Russian military equipment, a habit of the Ukrainian army

The major counter-offensives of September-October led to a collapse of the Russian front and an arrival of the Ukrainian Army in logistic centers before their evacuation. The Ukrainian Army was then able to take possession of hundreds of vehicles of all types, some of which were particularly sensitive: electronic warfare equipment such as the Krasuka 4, communications equipment, drones, command vehicles, ammunition stocks and tanks, like the Russian T-90A captured in Ukraine that has now arrived in the United States for analysis (see our article on this subject). In total, Russian equipment losses amount to just over 10,000 units proven by Oryx data, 2825 of which were captured by Ukrainian forces.

Here are some examples of the quantities and types of military platforms captured by Ukrainian forces 

  • At least 4 tanks of the T90 family  (1 T-90AK, 1 T-90S, 2 T-90M),
  • At least 164 tanks of the T80 family (81 T-80BV tanks, 45 T80U, 1 T-80UK, 5 T-80UE, 32 T-80BVM),
  • At least 2 Russian Pantsir-S1 air defense missile system,
  • At least 69 Orlan-10 military UAVs,
  • At least 33 howitzers of 152mm 2A65 Msta-B howitzer. 
A Russian TOS-1A multiple rocket launcher (MLRS) firing a thermobaric rocket.
A Russian TOS-1A multiple rocket launcher (MLRS) firing a thermobaric rocket. © Rosoboronexport
A Russian TOS-1A multiple rocket launcher (MLRS) firing a thermobaric rocket.

A Russian TOS-1A multiple rocket launcher (MLRS) in the hands of the Ukrainian army 

In a twitter video released on April 18, Ukrainian soldiers can be seen driving past a military convoy of their army in which a TOS-1A thermobaric MLRS is located. According to figures from the Oryx website, Russia has lost at least five of them, four of which have been captured and are more or less damaged. These weapons, widely used by Russia in the conflict, have devastating capabilities against infrastructure and ground troops. There is no information yet that the platform has been used by Ukrainian troops, but the TOS-1A would prove to be a serious asset in the realization of the upcoming Ukrainian counter-offensives. The question of the number of ammunition specific to this multiple launcher also arises, but again, no information is available on this subject although seizures may have been made, particularly during the major Ukrainian counter-offensives last fall.


The TOS-1A MLRS and its destructive thermobaric weapons 

The TOS-1A is a Soviet-era multiple rocket launcher system (MLRS) combining the chassis of a modified T-71A tank and a rotary rocket launcher capable of firing thermobaric warheads. Designed in the 1980s, this ground-to-ground munition has the strike power needed to attack fortified positions and destroy light armoured vehicles.Two types of unguided munitions equip the MLRS, the 173 kg MO.1.01.04 and the 217 kg MO.1.01.04M. The TOS-1A has a carrying capacity of 24 thermobaric rockets, which it can fire in a time frame of between 6 and 12 seconds maximum, saturating a geographical area of 40 km2. 

The thermobaric ammunition operates in two stages. On impact, an initial explosion vaporizes highly flammable fuel throughout the area surrounding the point of impact. A second explosion then ignites the gas cloud, creating a colossal explosion and a high temperature fireball. The latter, which sucks out the oxygen in the affected area, generates a massive blast that can destroy bunkers and inflict extremely high damage to the soldiers present on site. 

In a 1993 study by the US Defense Intelligence Agency and reprinted by Human Rights Watch it is stated that the "mechanism of destruction [by explosion] against living targets is unique...What kills is the pressure wave, and more importantly, the ensuing rarefaction [vacuum], which ruptures the lungs.... If the fuel deflagrates but does not explode, the victims will be severely burned and will probably also inhale the burning fuel," which turns out to be extremely toxic to the human body. In addition, the firing of a TOS-1A generates a pressure of 30.02 kilograms per square centimeter, and its ability to destroy Russian defense infrastructure is proving important in light of developments in Ukraine, where its defenders are preparing their next counteroffensives.

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