What is a thermobaric bomb? Fears Putin will use weapon which can destroy cities block-by-block
The so-called ‘vacuum bombs’ are capable of vaporizing human bodies and reducing cities to rubble
By Georgina Littlejohn – February 26, 2022
But Western officials have warned that if the Ukrainian military resistance continues to hold up the Russian assault, President Putin could resort to using thermobaric weapons.
But what is a thermobaric weapon and how dangerous is it?
What is a thermobaric weapon?
Dubbed the ‘father of all bombs’, a thermobaric weapon works by using oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature explosion, making it far deadlier than a conventional weapon.
The so-called ‘vacuum bombs’ are capable of vapourising human bodies, crushing internal organs and reducing cities to rubble causing huge loss of life.
Who developed them?
Both the United States and the Soviet Union developed thermobaric weapons in the 1960s.
In September 2007, the largest thermobaric weapon ever made was detonated by Russia and created an explosion equivalent to 39.9 tons.
The US version reportedly costs over £11 million ($16 million) each.
In 2017, the US dropped one which weighed 21,600 pounds on the Taliban in Afghanistan. It left a crater more than 300 metres wide after it exploded six feet above the ground.
Is the West concerned Russia will resort to using them?
Western allies fear Russia could use thermobaric weapons against Ukrainian forces if they continue to hold up their advance.
They believe because Russian forces missed most of their day one objectives of the invasion, they could resort to indiscriminate firing to make up ground.
One official said this could include thermobaric weapons which Russia is known to have in its armory and has used in past conflicts.
The Tos-1 Buratino weapons are understood to have crossed into Ukraine, although they have yet to be used.
Moscow has previously employed them in Chechnya and Syria.
“My fear would be that if they don’t meet their timescale and objectives they would be indiscriminate in their use of violence,” the official said.
“They don’t adhere to the same principles of necessity and proportionality and rule of law that Western forces do.”