According to a 10 March announcement from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation (Minoboron), Elements of the Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense (CBRN) protection unit from Russia’s 41st Combined Arms Army, located in the Central Military District, have conducted firing trials with an improved rocket for the TOS-1A multiple rocket launching system (MRLS). The new unguided rockets provide a 50% increase in range, increasing the reach of the TOS-1A to 9 km, compared to its previous 6 km range.
The Ministry of Defence statement adds that chemical reconnaissance was conducted using the PHRDD-3, which is designed to work independently of a vehicle and provide a database of threats. The latter role indicates the dual nature of CBRN protection units within Russian formations. The tests were conducted during an exercise in the Altai region.
The TOS-1A Solntsepyok (Blazing Sun) is best described as a weapon of opportunity; it fires 220mm thermobaric rockets in salvos of two or in a ripple fire pattern. A single vehicle is supported by two TZM-T transporter-loader vehicles, and it is able to fire all 24 of its rockets within six seconds. Full salvo is sufficient to cover an area of 70 sq km. The vehicle’s unique capabilities lie in the thermobaric nature of its warheads. These generate an intense heat (up to 3,000°) and a peak explosive force that is longer in duration than that of conventional high explosive.
As the explosive has an aerosol-like character, it will fill cavities and spaces within a building, for example. This makes it well suited to urban warfare or fighting in confined environments, but evidence from Ukraine indicates that the weapons also be effective against armoured vehicles in the open. The increased range offered by the new rockets will ensure that the TOS-1A can operate outside of a city in most cases, which will keep it safer and provide a broader battlespace for Russian forces.