Key point: Russia's TOS-1 can shoot multiple rockets with fuel-air explosives.
The TOS-1 Buratino is a unique Russian self-propelled multiple rocket launcher system (MRLS) that has seen action in global hotspots like Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq and Syria. Like the enormous 240-millimeter 2S4 self-propelled mortar, the TOS-1’s specialty is obliterating heavily fortified positions. Although some of these may be found in rural rebel strongholds and fortified caves, they have often been employed in heavily urbanized environments. It’s gained a uniquely nasty reputation because of the horrifying effects of its fuel-air explosive warheads.
To put it concisely, these are amongst the most devastating explosive weapons short of tactical nuclear weapons.
TOS stands for “heavy flame thrower,” which is only accurate in a literal sense: instead of projecting a stream of jellied gasoline, the TOS-1 launches a rocket carrying a fuel-air explosive (FAE).
These were first employed by the United States in the Vietnam War because napalm wasn’t destructive enough. Napalm munitions disperse a sticky, flaming liquid over a wide area. By contrast, a fuel-air explosive detonates the very air itself: a small explosive inside the FAE munition spreads a chemical cloud in the air through an aerosol effect. The gaseous cloud seeps effortlessly into buildings and caves, and down into slit trenches. A secondary explosive then ignites the cloud, causing a massive and long-lasting explosion.
While the heat generated by FAEs causes lethal burns in a wide radius (roughly two hundred by three hundred meters) the overpressure created by the sudden combustion of the air is even deadlier. The fiery blasts create a partial oxygen vacuum that kills and maims in a variety of grotesque ways and cannot be mitigated with body armor or hard cover.