Russian TOS-1A Thermobaric Rocket Launcher Absolutely Detonates When Hit By Drone

The TOS-1A is a terrifying weapon, but its rockets also make it susceptible to catastrophic detonations when attacked.

byJoseph Trevithick|
Ukrainian forces have destroyed another one of Russia's TOS-1A thermobaric rocket launchers in spectacular fashion with a drone strike.
via X
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The Russian military has lost another one of its TOS-1A thermobaric rocket launchers to a Ukrainian improvised kamikaze drone. The TOS-1A can be seen loaded with some of its notorious rockets right before the first-person view (FPV) drone hits it, leading to a giant secondary explosion that produces a massive fireball and sends debris flying in all directions.

A video emerged on social media earlier today showing the drone attack on the TOS-1A. It is said to have occurred recently near the town of Avdiivka, but The War Zone could not immediately verify that. Avdiivka in the eastern Donetsk region has been the focal point of a localized Russian offensive for more than a week now, which has resulted in at best minimal gains against Ukrainian forces so far and major losses, as you can read more about here. The video is also overlaid with the insignia of Ukraine's 59th Motorized Brigade, which President Volodymyr Zelensky lauded just last month for success in operations in Donetsk.

In the video, the FPV drone can be seen following the TOS-1A down a road and hitting it right in the back of its launcher. As already noted, at least some of its 24 launch tubes are seen loaded with rockets in the low-resolution clip.

Exactly what the drone is armed with is unclear, but portions of the footage shot from the first-person perspective show an improvised warhead that looks consistent with anti-armor rounds designed to be fired from an RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launcher. FPV drones with warheads like this have been seen in widespread use in Ukraine.

A screen capture from the TOS-1A attack video with the front of the warhead, which looks to be a PG-7 or similar round intended to fired from an RPG-7 launcher, visible at the bottom. via X

The TOS-1A is a specialized multiple rocket launcher mounted on a modified T-72 tank chassis. It fires 220mm thermobaric rockets designed to create devastating high blast pressure and high-temperature effects when they detonate, as The War Zone has explored in detail in the past. Because of the effects it creates, Russia officially refers to the TOS-1A as a "heavy flamethrower."

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TOS-1As have been in use in Ukraine since the opening phases of Russia's all-out invasion last year. They offer particularly devastating capabilities when used against structures and other semi-fortified positions. This makes them extremely valuable for punching through heavily defended enemy lines like the ones Ukraine has established around Avdiivka.

The TOS-1A's rockets also make the system susceptible to catastrophic detonations if struck while loaded. This also means they are juicy targets that have the potential to cause significant damage to anything else nearby with a secondary explosion.

This is not the first time one of these vehicles has exploded in breathtaking fashion after being attacked during the conflict in Ukraine. Videos from Syria and fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region between Azerbaijan and Armenia have also previously emerged that reportedly show TOS-1As detonating.

Independent open-source analysis group Oryx has visually documented that at least 10 TOS-1As have been destroyed or captured in Ukraine since Febraury 2022.

It's also worth noting that Russians have reportedly been employing newer TOS-2 thermobaric rocket launchers in Ukraine since May 2022. The TOS-2 fires the same rockets as the TOS-1A, but from an 18-tube launcher mounted on an up-armored 6x6 Ural truck. TOS-2, which first emerged publicly in 2020, was designed to offer a lighter and lower-cost alternative to the TOS-1A.

If nothing else, the spectacular destruction of another Russian TOS-1A by an FPV drone underscores the ever-growing threat that weaponized uncrewed systems, even commercial designs with improvised payloads, present. FPV-type kamikaze drones, as well as commercial quad and hexacopter types designed to drop small improvised munitions on their targets, have become a key feature of the fighting in Ukraine.

This, in turn, has prompted the development and deployment of various tiers of countermeasures, including electronic warfare jammers to break the link between drones and their operators. Nets have also been erected across roads in some areas to try to prevent exactly the kinds of attacks seen in the new video of the destruction of the TOS-1A, which you can learn more about here.

The use of drones like this of course predates the the current conflict in Ukraine, something The War Zone has long called attention to in the past. Most recently, small weaponized uncrewed systems armed with improvised munitions were an important component of the unprecedented terrorist attacks that the Palestinian group Hamas carried out in southern Israel, which have now touched off a major crisis that threatens to go regional.

In Ukraine, another one of Russia's TOS-1As has now fallen victim spectacularly to the now ever-present threat of drone attack.

Contact the author: joe@thedrive.com

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