While many nations, including the United States, have ceased using flamethrowers, Moscow has doubled down with its efforts to utilize fire on the modern battlefield. Rather than the backpack-and-nozzle systems that were employed with infantry throughout both World Wars, Russia developed its TOS-1A Solntsepek ('Scorching Sun'), a multiple rocket launcher platform mounted on a T-72 tank chassis to launch thermobaric rockets.
The latest TOS-2 'Tosochka' heavy flamethrowers are now currently undergoing trial tests, the Russian military announced last Friday according to Tass.
"Heavy flamethrower TOS-2 is one of the newest weapons with the RCBD [Radiological, Chemical and Biological Defense] troops," Chief of Russia's Chemical, Biological and Radiation Protection Forces Lieutenant-General Igor Kirillov said in an interview with the Russian Defense Ministry's Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper. "The pilot batch of the weapons at the issue was delivered to the military this year and it is currently under a trial test."
The current trials following the first round of testing involving the flamethrower, which took place during the "Kavkaz-2020" military drills at the Kapustin Yar proving ground in Russia's Astrakhan Region. The main drills stage was attended by Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, but it is unknown if he saw the Tosochka in action.
During September's tests, the new system was employed to destroy a mock enemy's advancing armor ranks. Unguided ordnance with thermobaric and smoke-incendiary warheads were used.
"The fire of the unguided rocket-propelled ordnance with thermobaric warheads with enhanced energy capacity has inflicted massive damage to the advancing enemy," the Ministry of Defense spokesman told Tass during the September exercises.
The TOS-2 'Tosochka' is a derivative of the TOS-1A 'Solntsepyok' heavy flamethrower system and the new platform features improved performance characteristics. The TOS-1A was an updated version of the TOS-1 'Burantino,' a heavily armored rocket launcher that could launch incendiary and thermobaric rockets – and meant to kill or rush any "soft target" in its path.
Unlike its predecessors, which were mounted on a tank chassis, the TOS-2 is mounted on the wheeled chassis of the Ural truck with the increased carrying and cross-country capability.
This gives it the appearance of the infamous BM-13 multiple-launch rocket system developed during the Second World War, which was lovingly nicknamed 'Katyusha' ('Little Kate') after a popular wartime Red Army song. Also known as 'Stalin's Organ' ('Stalinorgel') by the Germans, the BM-13 was used to great effect on the battlefield and earned the official title Guards Mortars.
The TOS-2 could be the 21st-century version, which has an increased range for launching rockets. The Tosochka also has fully automated sighting, firing, and fire control systems. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the heavy flamethrower is outfitted with a crane and, therefore, needs no transporter-loader vehicle. The TOS-2 also features an electronic warfare system against precision weapons. While less armored than its predecessors, it has the potential to rain down fire on an enemy.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.