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Russian Forces deploy TOS-2 thermobaric rocket launcher in combat operations

In a recent development reported on Russian social media on August 3, 2023, the Russian armed forces deployed the TOS-2 Tosochka flamethrower 220mm thermobaric rocket launcher vehicle on the Ukrainian frontline in the Kharkiv region. This deployment marks a critical phase in the system's testing through live combat operations, sparking speculation that, similar to the T-14 Armata, the TOS-2 may soon enter the final development stage before mass production.
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Russian Forces deploy TOS-2 Thermobaric Rocket Launcher in live combat operations (Picture source Yandex)

Although photographic evidence confirming this deployment is absent from the internet and social networks, reports from multiple Russian Telegram channels suggest that the system saw action on June 7, 2023, in operations against Ukrainian fortified positions in the Zaporizhzhia area.

The Russian military is continually enhancing its presence in Ukraine by deploying modern combat vehicles. After introducing the T-90M main battle tank and the BMP-T Terminator tank fire support vehicle, attention now turns to the T-14 Armata tank and the TOS-2, the latest generation flamethrower rocket launcher system, as they approach mass production readiness following extensive combat trials.

The TOS-2, known as "Tosochka," is a Russian-made heavy flamethrower system notable for its unique operational method. It deviates from traditional flamethrowers by employing thermobaric and incendiary rockets, which combine fuel and air in a cloud that, upon detonation, generates intense heat and pressure, rapidly consuming surrounding oxygen.

The term "thermobaric" pertains to the type of explosive used in the rockets, producing a fiery explosion followed by a concussive shockwave upon detonation. This attribute renders the TOS-2, along with its tracked counterpart, the TOS-1A, particularly effective in engaging enemy personnel within fortified positions or open terrain.

The TOS-2's destructive capabilities originate from its capacity to unleash destruction by firing 220mm rockets from 18 launch tubes, delivering a relentless barrage. The thermobaric effect of these rockets proves highly destructive, especially in enclosed spaces such as bunkers or urban environments, producing more heat and overpressure compared to conventional explosives by igniting a vapor within the blast zone. The resulting shockwave and intense heat from the detonation can cause extensive damage, surpassing the destructive potential of conventional explosives. This effect can be particularly detrimental to organs with varying tissue densities, such as the lungs, bowel, and inner ear.

The TOS-2 represents the latest iteration of Russian-made flamethrower and thermobaric rocket launcher systems. It features a wheeled truck chassis rather than the tracked armored chassis used in the TOS-1 and TOS-1A. This shift to a wheeled platform facilitates rapid deployment to firing positions, reduces fuel consumption, simplifies maintenance, and enhances mobility and maneuverability. The system was publicly showcased for the first time during the Victory Day military parade in May 2020.

As of now, the Russian military has not officially confirmed the operational deployment of the TOS-2. The TOS-2 is designed to target light armored vehicles, incapacitate personnel in open areas or shelters, and initiate fires and smokescreens using smoke/incendiary munitions.

Built on a 6x6 military truck 63706-0120, designed and manufactured by the Russian company Ural, the TOS-2 features a crew armor cab in the front to protect against small arms fire and artillery shell splinters. The rear section houses the launcher station, equipped with a container holding three rows of six tubes. The TOS-2 can fire fuel-air explosive rockets, also known as thermobaric ammunition, as well as a full range of 220mm unguided rockets. When using thermobaric rockets, its firing range extends from 3.5 to 10 km (and up to 15 km, according to certain Russian military bloggers).

This versatile system includes its own lifting mechanism, eliminating the need for a separate transport-loading vehicle. It can unleash its first salvo of rockets in under 90 seconds after deploying to a firing position and operates with a crew of five. The TOS-2 is equipped with modern navigation equipment, a laser rangefinder, satellite navigation, a Doppler speed meter, and an inertial measurement unit. Its ability to fire from unprepared positions, coupled with onboard guidance and fire control systems, enables highly automated operation.


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