Heavy thoughts over heavy flamethrowers

The other day, the media were full of headlines glorifying our heavy flamethrower systems (TOS) of all kinds, from “Buratino” to “Tosochka”. Modernized, improved, installed a new one. With an open hint towards “potential” – be afraid, because our TOC has no analogues. And stuff like that.
And then the question arises: why did it happen that they do not have? What is so exclusive in our CBT that no one in the world can create such a thing?

First of all, you need to look at history and realize the real role of these machines on the battlefield.

First, a few words about a thermobaric explosion. That is, combining the defeat of the target by changing both temperature and pressure. After the explosion of the ammunition, the mixture is sprayed in the air and a cloud is formed, which is ignited.

The detonation speed of this explosion is very slow, the mixture (propyl nitrate and magnesium powder) burns at a speed of 1500–3000 m / s, which is three times lower than conventional combustible mixtures.

But precisely because of such a low rate of combustion of the mixture, all the oxygen is very carefully burned out of the air. The combustion temperature is about 3000 degrees Celsius, which is uncomfortable for almost the entire environment.

But combustion also gives rise to a pressure surge. First, from the explosion itself and under the influence of temperature, the pressure increases, and when oxygen burns out in a given volume of air, the pressure drops by 150-200 mm Hg below atmospheric. For a very short time.

In general, everything is unpleasant for those who fall under such an explosion. Not temperature, so pressure can cause irreversible changes in the human body, incompatible with normal life.

This cute weapon was invented a long time ago. During the Cold War, in the process of improving the flamethrower. The flamethrower has proven itself very well in two world wars as an anti-personnel melee weapon. However, modernization for this terrible type of destruction of people suggested itself, because a flamethrower with a tank on its back was the primary goal of an infantryman (for obvious reasons).

Yes, by the term “flamethrower” everyone understood a kind of weapon that threw a burning mixture over a short distance. But scientists, simply copying the principle of “Greek fire” (which was not delivered to the addressee by the ancient warriors), put the fire mixture into a capsule with the intention of delivering it to the place of activation using any accelerator.

In general, a weapon capable of destroying enemy soldiers in well-fortified bunkers, bunkers and other hard-to-reach places has long been required by all armies. World War II showed that something powerful and mobile (yes, like a flamethrower) in urban combat is a very useful feature.

This is how such an ammunition as TBG-7V was born. Yes, RPG-7 is a very simple way to deliver a thermobaric warhead to the window of the house opposite. “Tanin” flew 100-200 meters and cut everything to the root within a radius of 10 meters from itself.

Heavy thoughts over heavy flamethrowers

Then there was “Bumblebee”, which flew a little further (1000 m), and killed all living things in the volume of 80 cubic meters. And “Bumblebee-M” flew even further.

Naturally, something was drawn, in general, large and self-propelled. Because “Bumblebees” have proven themselves very well in Afghanistan.

So the appearance of “Pinocchio” was quite logical and reasonable. And the fact that TPS was tested in Afghanistan, too. Yes, the firing range was, to put it mildly, small, up to 4 km. But the chassis from the T-72 made it possible both to go to the distance of firing at the enemy, and after firing to leave, not really making out the road. Fast.

And the transport-loading vehicle (TZM) was matched, based on the KrAZ-255B truck.

In the mountains of Afghanistan, “Buratino” showed itself in all its glory. It turned out that volumetric and thermabaric ammunition is very good precisely in the conditions of hard-to-reach mountainous terrain.

Moreover, the nuances were determined there, which played an important role in how this military equipment is used.

What was so new and “unparalleled” in the Buratino shells?


: Vitaliy Ragulin, Wikimedia Commons

Well, nothing. The machine itself is very, very controversial. On the one hand, the tank’s armor and good speed make it possible to roll out to the launch line and quickly get out of there. But the frontier itself is small. 4 km (more precisely, 3600 m) – this is the “Cornet”, and “Javelin”, and “Stugna” easily turn the car into scrap metal. We are not even talking about more serious ATGMs and helicopters.

Therefore, the use of TOC against regular armies looks completely frivolous. In any of them there is something to smash self-propelled flamethrowers.


Source: mil.ru

Moreover, there are more weighty solutions for regular armies: the same Smerch / Tornado-S MLRS, which are capable of firing a 9M55S thermobaric warhead at a range of 25 to 70 km.

Expensive but effective. And, importantly, it is safe.

Another thing is irregular and somehow armed detachments of militants. No heavy weapons capable of damaging a tank platform. RPG, you know, does not count here at all.

And it was quite possible to shoot at them (in Afghanistan, in Chechnya) with unguided and cheaper shells of the TOS “Buratino” rather than using “Smerchi”. When working on areas, when you do not need to think about possible losses among the civilian population, which is not in the range, and about accuracy, the NURS is quite a normal weapon.

Therefore, “Buratino” came to the court in Afghanistan and Chechnya.

And further evolution in the form of “Solntsepek” is already 6 km, not 4. The distance is increasing, although the developers of countermeasures do not sit still either. And yes, the “Smerch” (which was turned into “Tornado-S”, connected to satellites, made the shells controlled and corrected) did not become cheaper.

Now (quite expectedly) in service in the Russian army are both options – and “Buratino” and “Solntsepyok”. Armor, speed, protection systems get along quite well with the NURS of the last century, which incinerate everything when working in areas.

Now there has been information about a new stage of development – TOS-2 “Tosochka”, which will fire at a distance of up to 15 km. All the same NURS with thermobaric warheads. Just as cheap and reliable. When working across areas.

But questions arise. Why even in our army there are only few such systems? Since they “have no analogues”, etc.? And in the world there is no queue for CBT. Iraq, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Syria – that’s who is armed with TOS-1A. From this list, Kazakhstan and Syria can be called allies. And even then with a stretch.

So why is there so little CBT in any army with these weapons? And why are there no analogues if everything is so simple?

There are several reasons.

The main one is the extraordinary vulnerability of the machine to the fire of elementary automatic cannons. We are not talking about rocket weapons. Any mechanical impact on the ammunition can cause a very bad reaction – fluid leakage and possible ignition. And then a little will not seem to be yours.

It is not without reason that even in Afghanistan, the extreme rows of the cells were not filled with missiles precisely because of this, and in Chechnya, TPSs worked only under the cover of tanks.


Source: Wikimedia Commons

So it is the vulnerability and, as a result, the danger of defeat of its troops from ATGMs and automatic cannons that will not soon make TOSs the machines of modern combat at the forefront. Moreover, during large-scale hostilities. There, TOCs outright lose out to MLRS, both in range and in efficiency.

Moreover, laudatory odes are heard to the fact that the TOS-1A puts shells with an accuracy of +/- 10 meters. Distance measurements are made using a laser rangefinder. That is, there is no way to hit the target behind the mountain?

And what do we have in fact?

And what remains is a purely police weapon. With a very narrow specialization – local conflicts on the territory of underdeveloped countries and counter-terrorism operations.

Let me emphasize: in mountainous regions.

Yes, in the mountains, where it is difficult because of the relief to use any technique, TPS, burning out a suspicious area, or an area in which militants were seen, or a response to the actions of militants – no doubt, this is effective. Considering the lack of weapons capable of damaging the car, militants and terrorists.

It was not for nothing that the media reported that new TOS-2s would be delivered to a part of the Southern Military District. It is in that district that we have a lot of mountain ranges, and in those places it is very often restless. So the appearance in the YuVO of new TOS-2 with an increased firing range is justified.

Now about why the spies of numerous “potential partners” do not hunt for the TOC secret. Probably because there is no secret.

But let’s see. USA. By the way, they are doing well with thermobaric charges. But they deliver them either by aircraft, or by the same MLRS or cruise missiles. Their allies are doing roughly the same thing. Israel, for example, dropped such ammunition on residential buildings in Lebanon.

The Chinese are also in complete order. They copied everything they could get their hands on. Including our ODAB-500. And they also prefer to deliver their TB-ammunition either by planes or by missiles.

More precisely it turns out.

As for the application, it does not come to mind where such an ammunition can be used today. Considering, moreover, the negative attitude of the UN towards him. Afghanistan? Alas, today a NATO contingent is sitting there. And, I must say, he sits quite quietly. The showdown between the Taliban and government security officials suggests that the country is still undergoing a civil war, as it was 200 years ago under the British.

The times when the Soviet military could arrange a quick finale for the Mujahideen with the help of “Buratino”, apparently, are in the past. Today, things are different in Afghanistan. Not so decisively, and the Americans and their allies are more profitable when locals die in the showdown.

Europeans, with their areas and overcrowding, in general, shouldn’t think about TB ammunition. It is terrible to imagine the consequences of the application. The Americans are no better. And there are not so many terrorists in the United States that it was necessary to build such machines for them.

Of the developed countries, only Israel is at war. But this is just the case when everything is so mixed up there that you also can’t start swinging a thermobaric saber. Maybe, of course, I would like to talk about Gaza, but who would allow it?

So it turns out that all the cases of using heavy flamethrower systems can be counted on one hand. Afghanistan (USSR), Chechnya and Syria (Russia), Karabakh (Azerbaijan).

Please note that everything is a sweep.


Source: Wikimedia Commons

That is why the Russian TPS and remain “unparalleled”, since purely police flamethrower systems, conditionally suitable only for cleaning up territories, are not needed by anyone in the world yet.

In reality, the armies of the world are in no hurry to adopt a miracle machine, capable, with several hits of small-caliber shells, to arrange a local Apocalypse with their own.

In addition, TOC has another very weak point. The system is highly dependent on the weather. The strong wind will scatter the cloud and prevent it from forming for the desired effect. The rain will simply “dilute” the fire mixture and press it to the ground. The fog will also have about the same effect.

Fight in perfect weather conditions? That’s another option.

In general, really, only the police use and the moral impact on the enemy in that there is such “unparalleled”. No more.

I am sure that if someone in the world needs such systems, then analogs will appear very quickly. Exclusively because there is nothing complicated and innovative in them.

Of course, the fact that we have them will not make anyone worse. Except for those who might be hit by these machines. In the Caucasus mountains, for example. There is something to think about for the future.

And the main thing here is not to overdo it.

As Colonel-General Stanislav Petrov from the RKhBZ once said in an interview with Krasnaya Zvezda, that the weapons of the RKhBZ troops can be used in peacetime to protect the environment.

Of course, you can, for example, burn a hemp field with a gulp of CBTs. Or poppy. You can try to fight forest fires. Yes, anything you can think of, but is it worth it?

Yes, we have a number of heavy flamethrower systems in service. They have no analogues in the world, no clearly formulated tactics of application. They just are. They are being modernized and improved. At least there is no harm from them.

How useful can these systems be? Considering their 40-year history has multiple uses? Time will show.

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