After Major Successes in Ukraine First TOS-1 Thermobaric Rocket Systems Now Integrated Into Russian Paratroopers

The Russian Airborne Forces have begun for the first time to integrate TOS-1A thermobaric rocket artillery systems, which according to multiple sources including on several recent occasions the Russian Defence Ministry have consistently proven highly effective in combat in Ukraine. The ministry recently noted that the systems used sophisticated software including topographic and geodetic referencing to maximise effectiveness, and that even enemy personnel in deep cover including in trenches were highly vulnerable. Head of the Airborne Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection Troops Colonel Alexei Goncharov stressed at the time the TOS-1A’s integration was announced that the systems “have no equal in the collective West’s arsenals,” and “induce panic among our enemies.” A major recent reported success of the TOS-1A was its pressing of alleged Neo Nazi Ukrainian militia units to surrender in January, with such radicalised units frequently reported to fight to the death and thus presenting some of the fiercest opposition Russian forces have faced. 

The TOS-1A’s thermobaric warheads have provided it with a special status among artillery assets, and the systems are deployed under the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection Troops rather than regular Russian Army artillery units. The system is prized for its ability to neutralise infantry in fortified positions, with its thermobaric ammunition able to rupture the lungs of victims in the vicinity of each impact. The weapons systems have accordingly been dubbed ‘flamethrowers’ due to their ability to clear out fortifications, with their ranges also being relatively modest. The assets are among the most unique in the Russian arsenal, and were extensively combat tested before their use in Ukraine namely in Syria and Iraq where they were deployed by government forces against jihadist insurgents. In the Russian Military it remains uncertain whether the TOS-1A’s success could lead to it being much more widely fielded, or whether those delivered to airborne infantry units could potentially see modifications to improve mobility or otherwise be transported more easily by air.