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On day 412 of the war, the Russian Ministry of Defense is giving thermobaric weapons to its elite paratroopers to strike Ukraine.
Russian VDV Paratroopers and TOS-1A Thermobaric Weapons
The TOS-1A Thermobaric weapon system is extremely deadly against fortified positions and urban centers. In a matter of just a few seconds, it can literally level an entire field. Although it has a rather small range—10 kilometers or 6 miles—the TOS-1A Thermobaric rocket launcher can create gaps in a fortified position that can be exploited by mechanized infantry.
However, to be as effective as possible, the TOS-1A needs to be protected before and during its fire mission because it is slow and lacks any substantial defense.
“The transfer likely indicates a future role for the VDV in offensive operations in Ukraine. It is likely part of efforts to reconstitute the VDV after it suffered heavy casualties in the first nine months of the war,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.
The highly destructive TOS-1A, which Russia designates as a ‘heavy flamethrower’, is typically operated by Russia’s specialist Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Protection Troops in Ukraine and has not previously been formally associated with the VDV.
The VDV airborne forces is an elite organization within the Russian military. A separate service, it reports straight to the Russian Ministry of Defense and was considered before the invasion of Ukraine as a strategic reserve.
In the war so far, the VDV airborne forces have produced mixed results. They spearheaded the push to capture Kyiv in the opening hours of the Russian invasion.
Unlike Western airborne forces, the Russian VDV are using heavy equipment, including main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, and self-propelled artillery.
On the one hand, having such heavy weapons as an organic capability makes VDV units independent and more lethal on the ground. VDV tactical commanders don’t have to outsource their needs to conduct an operation. But, on the other hand, having such heavy weaponry makes the VDV much less flexible.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Tuesday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 179,320 Russian troops.
Destroyed equipment includes: 307 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 293 attack and transport helicopters, 3,644 tanks, 2,765 artillery pieces, 7,038 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 535 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 18 boats and cutters, 5,620 vehicles and fuel tanks, 282 anti-aircraft batteries, 2,232 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 316 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 911 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.