The TOS-1A Solntsepyok is a multiple rocket launcher mounted on a T-72 tank that fires thermobaric warheads. Its primary purpose is to destroy fortified positions, lightly armored vehicles and transports in the open terrain.
Recently, this system has been deployed in the Russo-Ukrainian war, where its performance has been criticized.
TOS-1A: Characteristics and development
The TOS-1A is an improved version of the original TOS-1, known as the Buratino. The concept of a tank-mounted multiple rocket launcher capable of delivering thermobaric warheads was devised in the 1970s.
Development began in the 1980s, although it was kept secret for a long time. The TOS-1A, also called Solntsepyok (meaning “scorching sunlight”), debuted in 2003 and featured range and ballistic computer improvements.
The thermobaric warhead and its effectiveness
The thermobaric warhead used by the TOS-1A is known as a “vacuum bomb”. This type of warhead uses oxygen from the surrounding air to create a high-temperature explosion.
Its distinctive feature is that it contains a high percentage of fuel, which makes it more powerful than conventional explosives of similar weight. However, its effectiveness is dependent on atmospheric oxygen, which limits its use in specific conditions, such as underwater or at high altitudes.
History of use and deployment
The TOS-1 has been used in different conflicts over the years. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the Panjshir Valley, TOS-1 made its first appearance. It was also used during the Second Chechen War and by other foreign entities, such as Iraq, in their fight against ISIS. The Russian-backed Syrian Army has used the system in various clashes with rebel forces.
In the context of the Russo-Ukrainian war, the deployment of the TOS-1A has generated controversy. Although the Russian Defense Ministry has confirmed its presence in Ukraine, its effectiveness has been questioned. There have even been reports of some TOS-1As being captured by the Ukrainian military, who have used them against Russian forces. Although these losses do not have a decisive impact on the conflict, they do affect the image of the Russian forces in this difficult contest.
The TOS-1A Solntsepyok can fire thermobaric warheads and destroy enemy-fortified positions, lightly armored vehicles and transports in open terrain.
The TOS-1A is an improved version of the original TOS-1 Buratino. Development began in the early 1980s, and the 1A variant debuted in 2003. The range was improved to 6 kilometers, and a more sophisticated ballistic computer was added.
The TOS-1A’s thermobaric warhead is often referred to as a “vacuum bomb.” It is distinguished by containing almost 100% fuel, which makes it more powerful than conventional explosives of comparable weight.
The TOS-1A’s thermobaric warhead is dependent on atmospheric oxygen, meaning it cannot be used underwater, at high altitudes, or in adverse oxygen-limited weather conditions. However, it is highly lethal, with a long-lasting shock wave in environments such as tunnels, buildings, or trenches.
The TOS-1A was used in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Second Chechen War and was used by Iraq in the fight against ISIS. The Syrian Army has also used it with the support of Russia in different conflict zones.