Each Russian military district to have TOS-1A flamethrower battalion

Battalions armed with TOS-1A heavy flamethrowers will be created in each Russian military district. Their main task will be to destroy enemy fortifications. The Russian military has long discussed the engagement concept of the flamethrowers although the weapon has been exported for many years. Only now has the TOS-1A found its place in the combat order. It has to burn the ground by thermobaric projectiles before an attack, the Izvestia daily writes.

Each Russian military district to have TOS 1A flamethrower battalion
TOS-1A Flamethrower (Picture source: Army Recognition)

A battalion will comprise several heavy flamethrower companies and motorized rifle units to guard the weapons on the march and at the frontline. Each new formation will receive over ten TOS-1A and transloaders, Defense Ministry sources told the newspaper.

The new flamethrower units can break any field defense and effectively destroy terrorist bunkers, expert Viktor Murakhovsky said. "TOS-1A provides total destruction on a big space. It is fit for destruction of highly protected fortifications. Ordinary barrel or rocket artillery needs more time and munitions to accomplish the mission, and the result is not guaranteed. Heavy flamethrowers will destroy the defense by a fuel-and-air explosion. Tanks and motorized rifles will then advance and there would be nobody to resist them," he said.

TOS-1A is a unique weapon with no analogues in foreign armies. NATO countries do not produce such weapons, as they do not fit the concept of combat operations in which the alliance was engaged in the past decades.

In the 1980s, when the USSR designed and tested the TOS, the US command developed the concept of an air and ground operation. It engaged long-range and precision weapons - aircraft, cruise missiles, rocket artillery. The combat was expected to be fast and have a hotbed character. There was to be no clear frontline. The Americans believed wars would be of non-contact type. Light infantry would stage deep raids under the protection of aviation. They thought ground assault was a combat method of the past.

As a result, it took them a year to seize Mosul in Iraq, and four months to take Raqqa in Syria, Murakhovsky said. The cities were completely ruined by air raids. Now, the American military are discussing a reform of the ground forces and marines. They must be able to engage in a general combat.

Until recently, TOS was mostly engaged against irregular forces. For the first time, they were engaged in Afghanistan in 1988-1989 against mountain fortresses which artillery shells and air bombs could not ruin. Flamethrowers were also used in several Syrian regions. In particular, they destroyed terrorists outside a residential area near Palmyra.

In 2019, the new tactical unit was tested at Center strategic exercise. A combined TOS battalion was set up for the drills. It was assigned to a tank division at the place of the main strike. Before the attack, TOS-1A delivered a strike at field fortifications and armor. All enemy fortifications, tanks and APCs were destroyed and the engagement of the TOS-1A battalion was recognized as successful. Preliminary estimates showed the new formation increased the firepower at least three times in the breakthrough area.

TOS-1A battalions have to burn out the ground by thermobaric projectiles. The attack will develop as follows: a massive flamethrower strike at trenches, bunkers and emplacements will be followed by a tank and motorized rifles advance to the enemy rear. The tactic is effective in residential areas. One TOS-1A salvo can destroy the adversary hiding in buildings and basements.

TOS carries 24 missiles. One salvo can destroy hardware, troops and fortifications on a 4 km² surface. The missiles are armed with thermobaric warheads: the explosive substance mixes with the air close to the ground and inflames. The fire of the fuel-and-air explosion penetrates even the most powerful fortifications.

The weapon was licensed for export in 2008. At present, the armies of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria are armed with Russian heavy flamethrowers, the Izvestia said.