by David Crane
david (at) defensereview (dot) com
July 15, 2005
DefenseReview.com is going to be doing an article on enhanced-blast weapons/munitions, a.k.a. thermobaric weapons/munitions for general infantry and Special Operations (SPECOPS) use, particularly those being developed by Talley Defense, as soon as we can. In the past, we’ve discussed some of Talley Defense’s thermobaric work and the KBP RPO-A Shmel (a.k.a. RPO-A Shmel, a.k.a. RPO Shmel) shoulder-fired rocket flamethrower (i.e. thermobaric weapon).
Talley Defense has developed an RPO-A Shmel-like thermobaric version of their 66mm HEAT Rocket M72 LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapon). The new weapon looks like the proverbial heat (excuse the pun). DefenseReview has seen a video of this thermobaric M72 LAW in action, and it’s impressive (the video AND the weapon system).
It’s Defense Review’s understanding that the word “thermobaric” originated in Russia during the days of the Iron Curtain. Here in the West, we referred to these same types of weapons as fuel-air explosives. The word combines the Greek words “thermo” (heat) and “baros” (pressure), which describes how a thermobaric weapon operates. First, the weapon creates an intense overpressure wave/blast and distributes a combustable agent in either aerosol or gel, then ignites it, creating a giant fireball that consumes all of the oxygen in the area, which creates a deep vacuum. The Russians also refer to thermobaric weapons as “volumetric explosives”.