May 22, 2022
A Russian TOC-1A vehicle used to fire thermobaric missiles

A Russian TOC-1A vehicle used to fire thermobaric missiles

The Russian Minister of Defense has confirmed global fears that his country is deploying thermobaric weapons, or vacuum bombs, in their ongoing campaign in Ukraine, according to the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense.

The Pentagon’s spokesmen John Kirby denied any evidence of vacuum bombs.

This despite the reality that Russia has been rolling their TOS-1A units through Ukraine for weeks now.

It’s important to note that while many consider vacuum bombs to be the deadliest weapon outside of a nuclear bomb, they are not explicitly illegal or in violation of any major war accords. The USA and UK deployed them regularly in the middle east, primarily to clear heavily embedded positions like caves or bunkers. For this reason you may also know them by their American moniker “bunker busters.”

Though they are not illegal, international rules of engagement prohibit their use against enemy targets if civilians are in harms way. Although many have tepidly called out Putin’s use of the weapon, no major international power has proven or explicitly condemned the weapon’s use in this prohibited manner. As the Pentagon has clearly stated, there is no evidence to prove such accusations at this time. Some on the ground in Ukraine would dispute this.

Here we have a photo of the thermobaric tanks in Ukraine’s Oblast region on March 4

This comes only days after nearby Okhtyrka was decimated by Russian missile strikes, losing their railroads, power station, sanitation facility and much of their water supply. Town mayor Pavlo Kuzmenko went so far as to mention the weapon by name.

If world leader’s worst fears do come true, and Vladimir Putin really does decide to deploy these weapons on a greater scale, it will have devastating effects for the people of Ukraine.

Thermobaric warheads are filled with fuel, often ethylene or ammonium nitrate. When deployed, the warhead will release the fuel on impact as an aerosol, allowing the gas to fill the space around it and seep into the various cracks of a building, making it particularly devastating in urban warfare. Once the gas is ignited, the explosion quickly sucks up all the oxygen in the surrounding area, often liquefying the organs of those in proximity thanks to a vacuum effect. It then induces an explosion (by literally lighting the air on fire) more devastating than any conventional weapon is capable of delivering.

Note the first explosion on initial impact and then second, more devastating burst when the air itself is lit on fire.

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