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Russia confirms TOS-2 thermobaric rocket launcher deployment in Ukraine

On October 17, 2023, the Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed the deployment of the TOS-2 Tosochka 220mm thermobaric rocket launcher vehicle in Ukraine. This statement, shared on Russian social media, corroborated an earlier report by Army Recognition on September 4, 2023. This vehicle, a part of NRBC units, was employed against Ukrainian fortifications with extended-range projectiles.
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The TOS-2 was used against Ukrainian fortifications with extended-range thermobaric ammunition (Picture source: Russian social media)

Multiple reports from Russian Telegram channels suggest that the system first saw action as early as June 2023, being utilized in operations against Ukrainian fortified positions in the Zaporizhzhia area, without photographic evidence supporting this deployment.

The Russian military has been consistently bolstering its presence in Ukraine with the introduction of modern combat vehicles. Following the introduction of the T-90M main battle tank and the BMP-T Terminator tank fire support vehicle, the spotlight has now shifted to the T-14 Armata tank, 2S40 Phlox 120mm self-propelled mortar, 2S43 Malva self-propelled howitzer, and the TOS-2, the latest generation flamethrower rocket launcher system, as they inch closer to mass production readiness after undergoing extensive combat trials.

The TOS-2, known as "Tosochka," distinguishes itself with its unique operational method. Unlike traditional flamethrowers, it utilizes 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" refers to the type of explosive used in the rockets, creating a fiery explosion followed by a concussive shockwave upon detonation. This feature makes the TOS-2, along with its tracked counterparts, the TOS-1 and TOS-1A, exceptionally effective in engaging enemy personnel within fortified positions or open terrain.

The TOS-2's destructive capabilities derive from its ability to trigger destruction by firing 220 mm rockets from 18 launch tubes, delivering a barrage that can completely cover an area of six hectares. The thermobaric effect of these rockets proves highly destructive, especially in enclosed spaces such as bunkers or urban environments, as it generates 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 differs from the TOS-1 Buratino and the TOS-1A Soltsepek by using a wheeled platform, an automated aiming system, shooting and fire control systems, and no longer requiring a transport-loading vehicle as it comes equipped with a crane. The TOS-2 "Tosochka" uses in reality an extensively modernized TOS-1A launcher, mounted on a 6x6 chassis.

The shift to a wheeled platform enables rapid deployment to firing positions, reduces fuel consumption, simplifies maintenance, and enhances mobility and maneuverability. The slower TOS-1 and TOS-1A had been prime targets for the Ukrainians, with several either captured or destroyed. The TOS-2 is also equipped with anti-drone grids above the thermobaric ammunition launch system to minimize the risk of vaporization in the event of an unexpected encounter with a Ukrainian kamikaze drone.

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The TOS-2 is equipped with anti-drone grids to minimize the risk of vaporization in the event of an unexpected encounter with a Ukrainian kamikaze drone. (Picture source: Russian social media)

The TOS-2 220mm thermobaric rocket launcher was publicly unveiled for the first time at the Victory Day military parade in May 2020 and subsequently began to be integrated into CBRN units in 2021 after successfully completing state trials.

At the onset of the conflict in Ukraine, several TOS-2 units were already in service, though no further information was readily available. Over the past year, the TOS-2 has not been officially mentioned in the reports of the military departments. Nonetheless, informed sources have reported its utilization in operations. Up until this point, the Russian army had not officially acknowledged the operational deployment of the TOS-2.

The TOS-2 is slated to replace the TOS-1 and TOS-1A in the future. However, these older systems will not be withdrawn from service; instead, they will undergo modernization. The modernized vehicles will receive state-of-the-art digital communications and closed-circuit data transmission equipment, enabling integration into automatic control systems (ACS) at the tactical level.

The TOS-2 is designed to target light armored vehicles, disable personnel in open areas or shelters, and create fires and smoke screens using smoke/incendiary munitions.

Built on a 6x6 military truck (model 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, the firing range extends from 3.5 to 10 km (and up to 15 km with extended-range ammunition, as per certain Russian military bloggers. They have also suggested that this long-range ammunition may be adapted for both the TOS-1 and the TOS-1A).

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. The TOS-2 thermobaric rocket launcher has a weight of approximately 20 tons, which is much lighter than a TOS-1A weighing 46.5 tons.

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The TOS-2 thermobaric launcher is built on a 6x6 Ural 63706-0120 military truck (Picture source: Russian social media)


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