Root NationArticlesWeaponsThermobaric weapons: All about these munitions

Thermobaric weapons: All about these munitions


What are thermobaric weapons and how do these extremely dangerous munitions work, as no fortifications or shelters cannot protect from it? All this is explained in our article.

The Russians are attacking not only military but also civilian targets, using increasingly sophisticated and deadly weapons. Thermobaric weapons, whose destructive power is comparable to tactical nuclear warheads, have already been used by invaders in several Ukrainian cities. The damage they do is enormous.

However, before we go into details, it should be said that thermobaric weapons are prohibited by the Geneva Convention for use against civilian, not military. But as everyone now sees, Russia is violating the Geneva Convention by using thermobaric weapons and other prohibited munitions, such as cluster and phosphorus bombs and chemical weapons, against civilians in Ukraine.


This was first stated by US Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield at the UN forum. The fact that the Russian Federation has suspended the Additional Protocol to the 2019 Geneva Convention does not justify this. The worst thing is that further use of this type of weapon by Russia is very likely, given the deployment of heavy TOS-1 flamethrowers in Ukraine. They have a 24-chamber launcher (TOS-1A version) with 220-caliber missiles with thermobaric or incendiary warheads, which can cover an area of approximately 78,408 square meters (198 by 396 meters) in a few seconds.

Today we will try to explain this most dangerous weapon in detail.

Read also: Silent killers of modern warfare: most dangerous military UAVs

History of thermobaric weaponry

The thermobaric bomb is also called the ‘vacuum bomb’, but this name is incorrect and by no means official. We owe the appearance of these weapons to German scientists, because under the leadership of the Austrian physicist Mario Zippermayr in 1943, they carried out the first bomb blast, based on the detonation of a combustible aerosol of coal dust and liquid oxygen.

After the war, when Zippermeyer fell into American hands, he discovered that a bomb designed by his team had caused an explosion similar in effect to a nuclear bomb, although without the production of radioactive radiation and much cheaper than nuclear.

Thermobaric munitions were widely used by the US military during the Vietnam War. The bombers dropped them on the hideouts of the Viet Cong. They later wreaked havoc on the Gulf War and Iraq.


The Russians also worked on improving air-fuel weapons. Thermobaric charges, according to the Soviet military and strategists, were supposed to become a substitute for tactical nuclear weapons. Air-fuel bombs are extremely effective, but on the other hand, they do not threaten to exacerbate the conflict, such as the use of nuclear weapons, and do not have ‘side effects’ such as radiation, which threatens its own soldiers.

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The Russians like thermobaric weapons, and they now use them in aviation ammunition (for example, during the Syrian civil war), air-to-ground missiles, guided missiles, field artillery systems and portable grenade launchers of infantry units (including RPG-7 grenade launchers). and RSzG-2).

So what’s so special about this type of bomb that it can be compared to a nuclear weapon of mass destruction?

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The use of thermobaric bombs

Thermobaric bombs are almost 100% explosive, supplemented by fuel, the combustion of which in oxygen from the air makes the blast wave much stronger. Fuel used in thermobaric bombs may consist of solids and liquids using powdered metals (including titanium, magnesium, boron).

It should be noted that due to the development of technology thermobaric munitions can also be used by air forces. The effectiveness of such weapons was felt by terrorists in Afghanistan, when in 2017 the Americans dropped on them the so-called Mother of All Bombs, ie the largest American bomb GBU-43 weighing 9800 kg with 8500 kg of explosives, equivalent to 11 tons of TNT. Now, unfortunately, this type of weapon is also used in the Russian-Ukrainian war.


Putin’s troops mainly use these munitions with the TOS-1 ‘Buratino’ system. This equipment is based on technology developed in the 70s of last century. It should be noted that the TOS stands for ‘heavy fire system’, thus Buratino is in fact a heavy flamethrower. This name reflects well how TOS-1 works.


The field artillery system is available in the following versions:

  • TOS-1M ‘Buratino’ – 30 guides for 220 mm shells on a crawler chassis (T-72 tank)
  • TOS-1A ‘Solntsepek’ – 24 guides for 220 mm shells on a crawler chassis (T-72 and T-90 tanks)
  • The latest development of the system – TOS-2 ‘Tosochka’ on a wheeled chassis (Ural-63706), is available since 2020. The crew uses a computerized fire control system

The TOS system can hit targets at a distance of 400 m to 6 km. The TOS-1 uses missiles with an incendiary or thermobaric warhead. Missiles are unguided, the crew uses an optical sight and a laser rangefinder.


Read also: Switchblade: American kamikaze drones to protect Ukraine

How does thermobaric bomb work?

Thermobaric weapons cover a very large area with their fire. The spread of explosives in the air makes it possible to use oxygen for fuel combustion. Most conventional bombs also work with a mixture of fuel and oxidant, but with thermobaric bombs almost the entire fuel composition comes into play, that is, thermobaric bombs are much more dangerous than conventional ones. However, they work in completely different ways.

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This type of weapon has many names: thermobaric, vacuum, aerosol or fuel-air weapon. This is a combat agent, which, simply put, consists of a container of fuel and two separate explosives. The charge explodes in two phases: first, a detonator detonates a small charge of ordinary explosive, releasing a cloud of material (usually a mixture of fuel and metal particles), and then this sprayed cloud is ignited with a second charge. Such an explosion creates a huge blast wave, a fireball and, above all, creates a vacuum that absorbs oxygen from the environment. This is why this bomb is sometimes called a vacuum bomb. The explosion created in this way lasts much longer than in the case of conventional weapons, and has a much wider range, hitting a much larger area.

The explosion of a fuel-air bomb can penetrate into the building, killing people who are in it with a blast wave and extremely high temperatures (up to 1000°) in the area of the explosion. The impact of this type of missile on people is terrible, because the explosion literally sucks air out of people’s lungs and burns them to ashes, causing concussions, ruptured eardrums, nosebleeds, broken bones and terrible burns. You can’t escape from this explosion – you can’t protect yourself from it with a helmet, bulletproof vest or hiding behind a wall, in addition, it all takes literally a split second. Now, unfortunately, this type of weapon is used in the Russian-Ukrainian war.


The very name ‘thermobaric’ indicates the combination of high temperature and extremely high pressure that accompanies the explosion. This type of weapon comes in a variety of types and sizes, from small shells and missiles to the largest air bombs used, for example, to destroy caves and underground bunkers.

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How to protect against thermobaric weapons?

Unfortunately, only a hermetically sealed room that can prevent the explosive mixture getting in, can save from shelling with such weapons. In addition, the room must be strong enough to withstand the blast wave. This means that it is almost impossible for the civilian population to defend itself. That’s the danger. Therefore thermobaric weapons can be equated to weapons of mass destruction.

Thermobaric weapons: All about these munitions

Heavy missile launchers that use thermobaric munitions can be countered with either  aircraft or precise artillery strikes. Thus, let’s trust our Armed Forces, which in early March captured the Russian TOS-1 heavy flamethrower system. In addition, in my Kharkiv region, the valiant Ukrainian military was able to capture and use the trophy TOS-1A ‘Solntsepek’ against the occupiers. That is, we know how to resist the enemy.


Read also: All about the 155mm M777 howitzer and M982 Excalibur guided projectile

Thermobaric weapons and international law

Vacuum bombs have enormous destructive power. Human Rights Watch quotes a CIA document on the use of such weapons: ‘People near the detonation site die on the spot. People at a distance can suffer many internal and therefore invisible injuries, including eardrum rupture, severe concussions, rupture of lungs and other internal organs, and possibly blindness.’

Although there is no separate law prohibiting the use of this type of weapon (unlike, for example, cluster munitions), it is considered a weapon of mass destruction. The use of thermobaric munitions against civilians in human settlements is equated with war crimes. That is, the military who use them can be convicted of war crimes under the 1899 and 1907 Hague Conventions.


It should be noted that the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Karim Khan has already announced that the ISS will investigate war crimes in Ukraine. That is, the deserved punishment of the orcs is inevitable, as is the inevitable defeat in this war.

Read also: Weapons of Ukrainian Victory: Australian Bushmaster IMVs

We are confident that we will be victorious because we defend our land, our cities and villages. Everything will be Ukraine! We believe in our Armed Forces! Glory to Ukraine! Death to enemies!

You can also help Ukraine fight with Russian occupants via Savelife or via an official page of the National Bank of Ukraine.

Read also: Weapons of Ukrainian victory: ATGM Stugna-P – Russian tanks are in trouble

Yuri Svitlyk
Yuri Svitlyk
Son of the Carpathian Mountains, unrecognized genius of mathematics, Microsoft "lawyer", practical altruist, levopravosek
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2 years ago

Honestly the most repetitive, tedious and mind numbing piece of journalism I have ever read. Like a 12yr old with no knowledge on the subject just read 6seperate Google articles on Thermobaric munitions and did a little extract from each.