Flamethrowers have always brought a unique, visceral dynamic to war. Back in World War I and World War II, specialized troops carried them — and they were relied on to clear out fortifications. This was particularly important in the Pacific Theater as the Marines (and Army) made their way across the various atolls and island chains.
A flamethrower operator doing what they do best.
The problem with flamethrowers then was that they had to be worked by troops. The mixture was, by necessity, volatile. If the fuel tank got hit, the Marine or soldier with the flamethrower went up in flames rather than turning enemy troops into crispy critters. Furthermore, you had to get very close to use a flamethrower effectively.
An M67 throwing flames. No big deal. (U.S. Army photo)
In World War II, however, the United States began to install flamethrowers in tanks. This solved the fuel tank's vulnerability to bullets while it was on the back of the Marine or soldier, but the range was still short. Eventually, flamethrowers changed from something like a backpack to something more like a rocket, launchable from systems like the M202 FLASH.
A soldier operates the M202 FLASH, an American flame-throwing rocket launcher. (U.S. Army photo)
Russia, however, has taken this concept to its extreme. In the late 1980s, the T-72 chassis was used as the basis for a large, rocket-launching flamethrower called the TOS-1. The TOS-1 carries up to 30 220mm rockets that it can fire to a range of just over two miles. The TOS-1 saw action in Chechnya, Iraq, and the Soviet-Afghan war.
According to the news agency TASS, Russia has created a new rocket-launching flamethrower, the Tosochka TOS-2, based on the T-14 Armata. The system has a range of just over six miles and the vehicle can travel over 300 miles on a single tank of gas. In short, Russia is likely to be able to make opposing troops feel some serious heat.
Learn more about this powerful rocket launcher in the video below: