Using the American-made HIMARS rocket launcher, the Ukrainian military destroyed a Solntsepyok (Blazing Sun) – a Russian heavy flamethrower – in southern Ukraine that a team of drone operators had discovered hidden in a forested area.

The Ukrainian Special Operations Forces (SSO) released a video on Telegram showing the rocket launcher getting hit by a missile and sending a mushroom-shaped flaming smoke cloud above the treetops. 

While conducting reconnaissance, the crew of the unmanned aircraft complex of the 73rd Maritime Center of the SSO discovered the Russian “heavy flamethrower system” (TOS-1A) Solntsepyok camouflaged under the treetops. The Russians had brought the Solntsepyok to Ukraine as part of their ongoing full-scale invasion.

The SSO aerial reconnaissance operators sent its coordinates to HIMARS operators.

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“As a result of the fire damage, Solntsepyok was completely destroyed (watch the video to witness its spectacular flames),” reads the caption to the footage.

In the video, a series of explosions is visible, culminating in one massive explosion. This is what the detonation of Solntsepyok's thermobaric ammunition looks like.

What is known about Solntsepyok

This heavy “flamethrower” system is employed to destroy light armored vehicles, enemy personnel in open terrain, and fortified buildings through powerful volume explosions.

The system has been in service with the radiation, chemical, and biological defense forces of the Russian army since April 2001.

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Firing from this flamethrower system is executed by unguided rockets of caliber 220mm, weighing up to more than 200 kg.

Solntsepyok's thermobaric munition forms a cloud of explosive mixture and then detonates it. After the instant of detonation, the atmospheric pressure in the cloud jumps sharply, and then drops just as rapidly by about 160 mm Hg.

So, even if the enemy manages to survive after the explosion itself, such a sharp pressure drop almost guarantees death from the rupture of internal organs.

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The high accuracy of Solntsepyok's salvo fire is achieved through automatic targeting at a target located up to seven kilometers away. Cost estimates vary for the system. It's been reported that the system costs in the range of $6.5 million to $15 million.

In July 2022, the Russian Ministry of Defense stated that Ukrainian troops were hunting the system due to its effectiveness.

A representative of the department stated that Solntsepyok uses thermobaric rockets. After its strikes, a fireball with a temperature of about 3,000 degrees Celsius appears, making hiding in dugouts impossible, the Russian Ministry of Defense says.

The Russians also asserted that there are no analogs to this heavy flamethrower system in the world.

Disadvantages of this weapon

Solntsepyok is large and weakly armored. Thus, the system is vulnerable to strikes from anti-tank missile systems and grenade launchers. Additionally, damage to the system poses a danger to its own troops.

On the battlefields of major engagements, Solntsepyok loses to rocket salvo systems in terms of range and effectiveness. According to information from various sources, the range of this flamethrower system is 6-10 kilometers, making it a close-quarters weapon.

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