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Ukrainian forces take out key Russian artillery systems TOS-1A in strategic counteroffensive

June 12, 2023 - Ukrainian forces have successfully targeted and destroyed at least two Russian TOS-1A thermobaric artillery systems, using Western precision munitions fired from an American M109A6 Paladin 155mm self-propelled howitzer in a significant counteroffensive, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
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Ukrainian forces utilized the Paladin 155mm artillery system to destroy the Russian thermobaric artillery in both western and eastern Zaporizhia Oblast. (Picture source Twitter @EjShahid)

This strategic maneuver has the potential to significantly disrupt Russian defensive capabilities due to the scarcity of these high-powered artillery assets, which are managed at the Russian military district level.

Footage from the Twitter account NOELREPORTS geolocated and released on June 8 and 9 revealed that the Ukrainian forces utilized the American M109A6 Paladin 155mm tracked self-propelled howitzer to destroy the Russian TOS-1A thermobaric artillery in both western and eastern Zaporizhia Oblast. These systems, known for their destructive capacity, have been at the forefront of Russia's defense strategy against Ukrainian attacks.

Recent communications from the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) have emphasized the pivotal role these thermobaric artillery systems play in engaging Ukrainian positions along the frontline in the western Zaporizhia Oblast.

In addition, a Russian military blogger highlighted the relentless firing by Russian thermobaric artillery units on Ukrainian forces positioned along the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast administrative border and in the western Zaporizhia Oblast over the past several days. The blogger depicted these units as critical for thwarting Ukrainian frontal assaults.

The heavy reliance on these specific artillery assets by Russian forces is notable. Precise strikes by Ukrainian forces on these systems could prove problematic for Russia's defensive strategies. Given the limited number of TOS-1A systems, Russian forces may struggle to provide the same level of fire support along the entire front line if Ukrainian forces continue to successfully target these systems.

The ISW suggests that this could represent a pivotal moment in the conflict, as the decimation of these scarce but powerful artillery systems could serve to further compromise Russia's defensive capabilities, potentially creating new opportunities for Ukrainian forces in their ongoing counter-offensive.

The situation remains fluid with both sides demonstrating significant capabilities and strategic acumen. However, the removal of these crucial artillery units from Russia's arsenal could represent a shift in the balance of power in this ongoing conflict.

Ukrainian Forces take out key Russian artillery systems TOS 1A in strategic counter offensive 925 002
Russian army TOS-1A flamethrower artillery system. (Picture source Army Recognition)

The TOS-1A is a modern, heavy flamethrower system used by the Russian military. It's also referred to as a thermobaric artillery system, and it's known for its considerable destructive capabilities.

The TOS-1A system is built on the chassis of a T-72 or T-90 tank but replaces the tank's gun with a launcher that can fire 24 unguided rockets. Each rocket carries a thermobaric warhead. Thermobaric weapons, also known as vacuum or fuel-air explosives, ignite the oxygen in the air to produce a significant blast wave that can cause extensive damage over a broad area.

The TOS-1A's rockets have a shorter range than many artillery systems, with a maximum range of about 6 kilometers. However, the system's key strength lies in its ability to deliver a large amount of explosive power over a wide area, making it highly effective against fortified positions, in urban warfare, or against personnel in the open.

The TOS-1A system is relatively rare and is controlled at the Russian military district level, suggesting its deployment is decided at a high strategic level. Its destruction could potentially complicate Russian defensive capabilities due to its unique tactical value on the battlefield.

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