Organizing and conducting an assault on a settlement is one of the most difficult types of combat at the tactical and operational levels. According to Western and domestic military experts, an important role in its successful capture and cleansing is played by the preparedness of the personnel of assault units and subunits, as well as their equipment and armament. The rich experience in this area was gained by the Soviet army during the Great Patriotic War. The experience of fighting in Stalingrad, Königsberg, Berlin, etc. was the basis of the methodological manuals and combat regulations of the army not only of the Soviet / Russian, but also of the FRG, France and even the USA.
“When in the winter of 1999 of the year we were preparing to storm Grozny, we requested all the documents and manuals for the battles in Stalingrad. They helped us a lot, ”Hero of Russia, Colonel-General Vladimir Bulgakov told the Military Industrial Courier newspaper. But in the modern world with its highly informatization and new technologies, the tactic of assault on cities and towns has undergone significant changes.
In a city battle
Since 2001, the American military-scientific institutions, including the US Army War College, published several dozen scientific papers analyzing the experience of the armies of various countries during the storming of cities. In 2006, the US Army Charter 3-06 Urban Operations was issued for the US Army, which regulates operations in urban areas, and in 2008, FM 2-91.4 Intelligence Support To Urban Operations, dedicated to the organization of intelligence in cities and towns.
The main feature of the conduct of urban combat is that opponents are in close proximity to each other.
“My units occupied one house, and militants sat across the street from them. I therefore did not call Aviation. The militants are close, and the pilots can cover their own, and if we move to a safe removal, the enemy will take the positions we left. Therefore, the Su-24 and Su-25 worked much further according to the plan of the higher command, ”Hero of Russia Colonel Yevgeny Kukarin, who commanded the troops of the Vostok group that stormed Grozny in December 1999, told the military-industrial complex correspondent.
At the same time, one rifle weapons and using mortars to knock the enemy out of houses and buildings, which are often not inferior in their strength to reinforced concrete long-term fortifications, will fail. Therefore, artillery and Tanksdirect fire.
During the Great Patriotic War in the divisions that stormed the cities and towns, there were from four to seven rifle battalions due to the losses incurred - there were only active bayonets for 150 – 200, but a lot of guns and mortars. Each division had about a hundred trunks, reinforced by army, corps artillery regiments and brigades of the Reserve of the main command. At least two or three mechanized and tank corps with a hundred tanks in each participated in the battles in Königsberg, Budapest and other cities, and even armored armies were in the Berlin operation. True, without infantry, tanks and other armored vehicles in the conditions of urban development are vulnerable to the fire of the enemy's grenade launchers, as the bloody assault on Grozny in the winter of 1994 proved. The tanks of the 131 motorized rifle brigade and the 81 motorized rifle regiment, with little support from the infantry and artillery, were blocked and quickly knocked out. But already in the winter of 1999, storming Grozny for the second time, the Russian command restricted the use of armored vehicles, but artillery fire was much more intense. As Yevgeny Kukarin confessed, not only several 152-mm self-propelled howitzers, but also heavy 240-mm Tulip mortars, which were used by the corrected mines, supported him during the storming of the Grozny Square in Minute.
The US Army and Marine Corps, which stormed Iraqi cities in 2003 – 2005, actively used artillery and armored vehicles. But like the Russian troops in Chechnya, the US military faced the high vulnerability of tanks and infantry fighting vehicles, despite the excellent training and numerical superiority of their infantrymen. It is noteworthy that, in contrast to the Russian military, the Army and the USMC prefer to conduct artillery fire on targets distant from their positions, and aircraft with high-precision means of destruction must destroy the enemy in close proximity to ground forces. Although, as the experience of fighting in Iraq in Fallujah, Nasiriyah, etc., shows, more than 70 percent of air strikes were canceled due to the proximity of the militants to the positions of US units.
Despite different approaches and technical equipment, storming the cities, the armed forces of Russia and the United States face similar problems. The enemy is located a few dozen meters from the positions of Russian (American) troops in buildings that protect against small arms and mortars, which, however, can be destroyed by artillery, tanks and air strikes. But more than half of the strikes are canceled due to the threat of hitting their units.
As the experience of the Russian and American military shows, in case of impossibility to destroy the enemy with long-range fire weapons and armored vehicles directly in the house of the unit, they storm the buildings, clearing it from the basement to the roof.
“I was advancing in a solid line. If at least one assault group escaped one house further, the militants could easily surround it and cut it off. So they cleaned one house after another, ”Colonel Yevgeny Kukarin told the journalist of the newspaper“ Military Industrial Courier ”.
For such sweeps, storming infantrymen should have enough firepower to crush the enemy. It should be borne in mind that the task of the defenders is to inflict maximum damage in manpower and armored vehicles to the troops attacking them. In Chechnya and Iraq, the militants did not seek to defend populated areas. Their goal was a negative resonance in the media, caused by large losses among the attackers. Suffice it to recall the New Year storming of Grozny.
The most profitable deal for militants is when, due to the inability to use artillery, aircraft and armored vehicles are forced to storm every house, while their losses can be measured in hundreds of people. It is here that the so-called pocket artillery comes to the aid of the troops, or to put it simply - grenade launchers, flamethrowers and especially effective thermobaric charges capable of destroying the enemy in homes, basements and various enemy structures without any losses by assaulting.
Following the results of urban fighting in 2003 – 2006 in Iraq, the US Army returned to the infantry company the Swedish Karl Gustav and M-79 grenade launchers that had already been decommissioned, and the Marine Corps quickly ordered a well-known hot-air charges in the city of Fallujah for regular staff SMAW grenade launcher.
Surprisingly, even in the 90-ies, American military experts were skeptical of thermobaric ammunition for grenade launchers, considering them to be ineffective. At the same time, at the end of the 70s, the Soviet army appreciated the advantage of such ammunition by adopting flamethrowers of the RPO “Bumblebee” family, which showed their high efficiency in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, the first and second Chechen wars.
"Lynx" in Afghanistan
During the Second World War, a flamethrower, created back in the early 1900s, was distinguished by its high efficiency in cleaning and storming urban buildings. Placed under pressure in special tanks, the fuel mixture was thrown in the direction of the enemy and set on fire. Having shown itself well in the trenches of the “positional nightmare” of the First World War, the flamethrower moved to the armament of chemical and engineering units of the countries of the world that stormed engineering structures built during the Spanish Civil War, the fighting at Khalkhin Gol and during the Second World War. In the Soviet, German, British and American ground forces there were special flame-throwing units attached to reinforce the usual rifle (infantry) companies and battalions storming the cities and towns. With all the effectiveness of flamethrowers, there were several drawbacks that significantly complicate their use. This is a large weight of incendiary cylinders, often reaching 20 kilograms. The mixture itself lasted for several seconds of work, and when fragments or bullets hit the cylinders, the flamethrower turned into a pillar of fire that burned not only himself, but also the fighters around him within 10 – 15 radius meters. It is noteworthy that both allied and Axis countries were armed with not only manual ones, but also flamethrowers mounted on tanks and armored vehicles.
Classic flamethrowers reached the Vietnam War, where they were successfully used by the US Army and Marine Corps during the sweep of the jungle and the battles in the South Vietnamese city of Hue during the Tet offensive. In the Soviet Union, they realized the futility of such products and began the search for their replacement as early as the beginning of the 50s. In 1976, the first troops “Lynx” flamethrowers developed by the Tula Instrument Design Bureau were put into service by the flame-throwing battalions of the Soviet Army’s radiation, chemical and biological defense forces (RCBZ). The newest product, created using units and mechanisms of the RPG-16 manual rocket launcher, fired a four-kilogram incendiary charge of more than one hundred meters and could destroy not only buildings and engineering fortifications, but also light armored vehicles. For the first time in the battle "Lynx" used the Soviet troops in Afghanistan, but the expectations from the weapons were not completely justified. With a length of almost one and a half meters, the flamethrower itself with additional charges weighed more than 20 kilograms, and the incendiary mixture turned out to be ineffective in the conditions of rocky mountains. Not always the charges of “Lynx” could set fire to the stone and adobe houses of local residents. It is noteworthy that the weak incendiary capabilities of the flame-thrower mixture of both the classic Soviet flamethrower LPO-50 and the reactive “Lynx” against modern brick and panel buildings were known to the command of the Ground Forces and the RCBZ troops of the Soviet army from the experience of the end of the 70-s. It turned out that the primitive structures of the people of Afghanistan more effectively hold the blow of the fire mixture than modern buildings.
“The Soviet troops and their allies in the Warsaw Pact were preparing to conduct combat operations against NATO countries in the highly urbanized territory of Western Europe. The task was not to clear the cities, but to break through them, destroying the enemy’s blocking units. Therefore, as part of the RCBZ troops, separate flame-throwing battalions were formed, which were ordinary motorized rifle battalions, but additionally armed with Lynx and later Bumblebees. The engineering and sapper divisions included a large number of equipment capable of destroying debris and barricades in narrow streets, ”Vitaly Moiseyev, editor-in-chief of the Internet project“ Courage-2004 ”, explained to the Military Industrial Courier newspaper.
"Bumblebee" goes to the position
To replace the outdated “Lynx” and LPO-50 in the instrument-making design bureau at the end of the 70-s, the development of a fundamentally new flamethrower with a thermobaric warhead began.
Thermobaric explosion, often called a volumetric explosion, has been known to scientists for a long time. A combustible substance is sprayed into the air in the form of an aerosol, and the resulting gas cloud is ignited. The explosion is accompanied by a strong shock wave and excessive pressure. According to this principle, in the past there were fires at the mills, where dust clouds exploded, which were formed during the grinding of flour. The aerosol has the property of “flowing” into buildings, rooms, and various shelters, so that it will not work to hide behind a wall of a building, in a trench, dota, etc. The explosion will reach there. True, a volumetric explosion is more effective in closed spaces than in open areas where the aerosol can dissipate too quickly.
Experiments with thermobaric ammunition Soviet and American experts began in the 60-s. The first volumetric explosion ammunition was used by the US Air Force during the Vietnam War, where they proved their high destructive power in the confines of the jungle.
In the 70 – 80-ies in the West, thermobaric ammunition went along the path of increasing power due to the weight of the aerosol and the caliber of the ammunition itself. But it was only in the Tula Instrument Design Bureau that they realized the high effectiveness of a volume explosion ammunition for combat in the city, starting the development of the Bumblebee rocket infantry flame thrower in 1984. The designers paid great attention to summarizing the unsuccessful Afghan experience of using “Rysay” and decided to make the “Bumblebee” disposable and light enough to make it easier for the fighters to be carried and stored in armored vehicles. The compact RPO container, which is shorter than the “Lynx” by more than half a meter, turned out to be more convenient to handle in cramped urban areas. The four-kilogram ammunition placed in the container was thrown out of a powder charge per thousand meters installed in the engine and destroyed the enemy’s fortifications and manpower in an 80 radius of square meters in closed areas and in buildings and 50 meters in open space.
Even before being commissioned in 1988, the Bumblebees underwent troop tests not only at ranges in the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, but also in the 40 Army fighting in Afghanistan, where they were used in the mountains and during assaults and cleansing villages. One charge of the “Bumblebee” was enough to completely destroy the two- or three-story stone house, not to mention the mud brick (which the “Lynx” could not do). According to the calculations carried out by the Main Rocket-Artillery Directorate of the Soviet Army, the power of the Bumblebee ammunition is equal to an 107-mm high-explosive projectile, albeit without explanation of which howitzer or cannon.
In the 80-s publications devoted to the weapons of the Soviet army, American experts spoke very negatively about the latest flamethrower, pointing to the weakness of the charge, low power and high threat to the civilian population. Bumblebee fits very well into the extensive propaganda campaign about the atrocities of the Soviet army in Afghanistan. But after 20 years, such charges will take their place in the arsenals of units and divisions of the US Army and Marine Corps.
“Lose weight”, but became more effective
To fight the RPO "Bumblebee" had a lot. But in all wars and military conflicts, the flamethrower received only positive feedback.
"We could not suppress the firing point of" spirits. " A two-story brick building, with loopholes in the walls. Shoot the PC (Kalashnikov machine gun. - Note. "MIC") and AK. Even our sniper cannot get “spirits”. The fighters came up with the "Bumblebee" and rolled the charge into one of the windows. The house collapsed and the donkey fell in front of his eyes, ”an officer of the special forces unit of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia shared with me his memories of the hostilities in Chechnya with the journalist of the Military-Industrial Courier. And there are more than enough such memories of the combatants.
Weapons systems are constantly being improved, new solutions and developments are emerging. Bumblebee is not standing still. With all the positive qualities of a flamethrower, the military has complaints about sighting devices. On the one hand, complex sights for a disposable Bumblebee are an excessive luxury, but on the other hand, a special sight is needed for shooting at long ranges. With a maximum range of a thousand meters, it’s really effective to get only when you remove a target on 200 meters.
At the beginning of the 2000-s, the upgraded Flame-thrower “Shmel-M”, also known under two indices - RPO-M and RPO PMD-A, entered into service with the Russian army. The newest flamethrower “lost” almost five kilograms compared to the usual “Bumblebee”, but the effective range increased to 300 meters, and the maximum - to almost one and a half kilometers. The set of "Bumblebee-M" includes the so-called reusable fire control complex - a set of optical, night, and more recently, thermal imaging sights, shot after the shot and installed on the following containers. There is also a special sight, combined with the eyepieces of the usual night vision sight. If the "Bumblebee" was essentially a dynamo-reactive flamethrower, then the "Bumblebee-M" became completely reactive, since the charge is thrown towards the target by a jet engine without a powder charge. But the main thing in the updated flamethrower is the new fuel mixture, thanks to which the power of the ammunition has increased many times. Now, according to expert estimates, the RPO-M charge exceeds the 122-mm high-explosive projectile and is equal to the 152-mm 2-XNNXX MSTA-S self-propelled howitzer projectile.
On arms of the armies of the developed countries of the world there are no similar flamethrowers. The TTX is close to the Bumblebee and Bumblebee-M American reusable SMAW grenade launcher with a thermobaric warhead, which has been in service with the US Marine Corps since 1984. Surpassing the RPO family in firing range, the charge of the American-Israeli grenade launcher is inferior to the Russian family several times in power, also in a curb form, the five-meter SMAW is very inconvenient for carrying in urban combat conditions. No wonder the US marines prefer to charge it at the last moment, which requires almost a minute for a trained calculation. During that time, you can shoot three or four "Bumblebee".
Now the US military prefer portable thermobaric charges installed in buildings. Relatively light, they are not inferior in power to the charges of "Bumblebees". But their placement is associated with a known risk, since you have to put under fire and it is not always possible to perform all the necessary actions. In the book of the American special forces of Mark Owen "Hard day" describes the case when during the night assault on the building in Baghdad, the operators of "Delta", faced with strong resistance, decided to use a portable thermobaric projectile. But the fighter of the Delta who installs the charge forgot to put a fuse and had to return under the fire of Iraqi militants to eliminate the problem that had arisen. But these were trained servicemen of an elite special unit, one of the best in the world.
The Tula Instrument Design Bureau, which is part of the holding company OAO High-Precision Complexes, has developed and is constantly improving a unique family of flame throwers. Today, when High-Precision Complexes celebrate their five-year anniversary, I would like to wish all its employees not to stop there, but to continue to produce unique weapons systems and military equipment, superior to the best Western models.