Host photo agency/Ramil Sitdikov via REUTERS
- Russia’s paratroopers are getting a powerful new weapon in Ukraine, the UK MOD said.
- The airborne force’s strength had been dented after heavy losses in the invasion of Ukraine.
- But the UK MOD said the move suggests Russia wants it to play a larger role in any new offensive.
Russia’s airborne force is being armed with so-called “heavy flamethrowers,” as the military tries to reconstitute the elite units after they suffered heavy losses earlier in the invasion of Ukraine, according to UK intelligence.
The UK Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence update on Tuesday that, according to Russian media, paratroopers were receiving TOS-1A thermobaric multiple launch rocket systems.
Russia designates the weapon as a “heavy flamethrower,” the MOD said.
The weapon is mounted onto tanks, and is more powerful than conventional explosives.
Experts say it is particularly effective at targeting trenches, which is what much of the fighting in Ukraine currently looks like.
One expert told Newsweek that the weapon causes “extremely powerful shock wave which can shatter buildings.”
The Russian airborne forces, known as the VDV, isn’t normally equipped with this kind of weapon, which is typically used by Russia’s specialist Chemical, Biological and Radiological Protection Troops, according to the UK MOD.
The “highly destructive” weapon “has not previously been formally associated with the VDV,” it said.
It added that the transfer likely indicates a future role for the VDV in offensive operations in Ukraine and “is likely part of efforts to reconstitute the VDV after it suffered heavy casualties in the first nine months of the war.”
The VDV played a key role in early efforts to take the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, Insider previously reported.
But after Russia failed to take the city, it ended up playing a role that it wasn’t designed for: namely spearheading armored columns.
The paratroopers suffered heavily in multiple engagements in Ukraine, including an entire mechanized patrol that was destroyed by Ukraine in a Kyiv suburb in March 2022.
Russia’s efforts to reconstitute the paratrooper force mirrors its efforts to rebuild other once elite units that suffered significant losses.
Earlier this month the UK MOD highlighted Russian efforts to repair the reputation of the 155th Naval Infantry Brigade of the Pacific Fleet.
Experts say that the 155th’s losses have been so high that the military has had to replenish it with new troops as many as eight times.