Concerns over Russia’s use of thermobaric weaponry has grown when the Ukrainian envoy to the US said that a vacuum bomb – another moniker for the weapon – was used during the invasion. The ‘vacuum bomb’ ignites a fireball that sucks in all surrounding oxygen.
Although videos from Ukraine shows thermobaric rocket launchers on Russia’s TOS-1 vehicles, the employment of such weapons, which pull oxygen from the surrounding atmosphere to cause a high-temperature explosion, is still to be reliably authenticated.
Although it was unclear whether they had been used by Russia in Ukraine yet, Dr Marcus Hellyer, senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said it was just “a matter of time.”
How Vacuum Bomb Works?
The thermobaric weapon or a Vacuum Bomb is a two-stage munition commonly dubbed as an aerosol bomb or fuel air explosive.
The first-stage charge disperses an aerosol composed of extremely thin particles, ranging from carbon-based fuel to microscopic metal particles. A second charge burns the cloud, resulting in a fireball, a massive shock wave, and a vacuum as it absorbs all of the oxygen in the area.
Subscribe to GreatGameIndia
The explosion wave is capable of vaporising human bodies and can persist far longer than a conventional bomb.
These weapons exist in a variety of sizes and are utilized for a number of purposes. According to Hellyer, Russia may use them in Ukraine as “bunker-busters” to eliminate defensive fortifications. Versions that are extremely huge and thrown from the air are geared to demolish caves and tunnel networks.
Where have Vacuum Bombs been used?
Since the 1960s, Russian and Western troops have employed the bombs. In its efforts to destroy al-Qaida in Afghanistan’s highlands, the US depended on them. Russia, according to Hellyer, has a better track record with them than the West. “Russia has systems right across the spectrum … from quite small tactical weapons, to huge, air-launched bombs.
“The separatists that Russia was supporting in the Donbas region, they have been using them for a number of years now.”
Human Rights Watch condemned Russia’s alleged use of the weapons in Chechnya a year earlier “a dangerous escalation” with “important humanitarian implications” in 2000.
How dangerous are Vacuum Bombs?
Thermobaric weapons, according to Hellyer, are effective for their “specific purpose” of “primarily destroying defensive positions.” They wouldn’t pierce a tank, but they may be a “very destructive weapon” against some housing complex as well as other structure.
“They are not illegal even though their effects can be pretty horrific, because of that effect of creating a vacuum and sucking the air out of the lungs of defenders,” he said.
Hellyer predicted that more thermobaric warfare would be used in Ukraine because its usage is “pretty standard” in Russian strategies.
“One of the things we know about Russian tactics is that they are willing to destroy everything.
“It’s clear that the Ukrainians are hunkering down in some of the cities … as that continues the Russians are going to resort more and more to using … whatever weapons they have including thermobaric weapons in built-up urban areas.”