Russia Acquires the TOS-3 Thermobaric MLRS

Russia’s acquisition of the TOS-3 marks a breakthrough in multiple-launch thermobaric rocket systems.

The TOS-3 and its Strategic Importance in Contemporary Conflict

Russia’s military will enrich its arsenal with the latest version of the thermobaric multiple launch rocket system (MLRS), the TOS-3. This system represents an evolution of previous models that have already proven their worth on the battlefield, especially in the Ukrainian conflict.

The Omsktransmash plant in Omsk has been the epicenter of the development of this advanced military technology, where a new brand and classification have been registered, hinting at the imminent launch of the TOS-3.

The predecessor of the TOS-3, the TOS-1A, known by its name “Solntsepek,” has made a significant impact thanks to its thermobaric warhead missiles. This system has captured international attention, highlighting the interest shown by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, according to reports from and statements by  Alexander Mikheev, general director of Rosoboronexport. This interest is evidenced by Russia’s participation in the Riyadh International Exhibition, the  World Defense Show 2024, where its weapons’ power is displayed, including negotiations with Riyadh to acquire the  Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft system.

Speculation surrounding the TOS-3 suggests that this system, nicknamed “Dragon,” will be mounted on a tracked or tank chassis, possibly T-72 or T-80, due to T-90 chassis production limitations by Omsktransmash. The TOS-3 is expected to fire up to 15 missiles, with incendiary or thermobaric variants, offering notable tactical versatility compared to its predecessors.

Technical Analysis of the TOS-3: Capacity and Evolution

Russia Acquires the TOS-3 Thermobaric MLRS

Compared to previous versions, the TOS-3 presents clear differences in capacity and design. The TOS-1 Buratino, mounted on a T-72 chassis, can launch 30 220 mm rockets, while the TOS-1A reduces this number to 24 rockets. The TOS-2, or “Tosochka,” uses a  wheeled Ural chassis and can hold 18 missiles.

The reduction in the number of rockets from the TOS-3 to 15 could be attributed to the implementation of active and dynamic protection systems and the additional weight of the new TBS-M3 missiles, which promise an extended range of up to 15 km and greater destructive power.

Thermobaric warhead technology, fundamental to the TOS-3, uses oxygen in the air to generate high-temperature, high-intensity explosions. This mechanism produces a sustained blast wave and vacuum effect, causing extensive damage to structures and personnel, in addition to generating fires and asphyxiation. These characteristics make the  TOS-3  a devastating tool on the battlefield, capable of significantly altering the dynamics of a confrontation.

Saudi Arabia’s interest in the TOS-1A highlights the strategic relevance of these thermobaric MLRS systems. Improvements in range, firepower and maneuverability, as evidenced in the transition to the TOS-3, demonstrate a continued commitment to innovation and effectiveness in weapons technology.

Adapting the TOS-1A to a T-72 chassis significantly improves its mobility and endurance, paving the way for the advanced capabilities that the  TOS-3  promises to bring to the Russian military arsenal.