Just 6 seconds passes from the moment of firing to the moment of impact. The TOS-1A heavy flamethrower system has a very kind name: Buratino (Pinocchio). In reality, the weapon system is very mobile, not very large, but extremely potent. The exercises are taking place in the steppes, in order to carefully study the characteristics of the “new” systems. The Buratino systems are equipped with new missiles that have an enhanced range. The reloading vehicle loads the system up in 1.5 minutes; the process is done using a single remote control. For now, the most important things that the flamethrower unit needs to practice is navigating and firing the new unguided missiles. The destruction of the target depends on the accuracy of the target designator. Everything else, including distance, trajectory, and even wind are calculated by the computers in the vehicle.
“We use laser rangefinders to calculate the distance to the target and enter the information into the computer, which then corrects the system’s aim,” stated Artyem Rumyantsev, the commander of the flamethrower platoon. The TOS-1A systems are supported by several light flamethrower subdivisions. They, too, are getting to know their new weapons: on their shoulders lies a new reactive infantry flamethrower with extended range and power: The RPO Shmel-M. Most of the soldiers have enough experience to be able to compare the old and new versions of the Shmel. For Igor Popov, these exercises have become the starting point for using the new weapons, which he was issued after he mastered the older ones, and he can now discuss the flamethrower like a professional. “These weapons are great at ranges of 200-400 meters. It flies at a low speed, so it’s easy to see how the round is moving toward the target. The system is overall very comfortable and easy to use,” he said.
Soldiers train to shoot the Shmel-M in a small cabinet in conditions that are very different from the field: several simulator computers and screens that show the target, as well as replicas that are very similar to the actual flamethrower. The training room is specially designed for training soldiers to use new weapons systems. “Those that passed the training are deemed to be specialists and capable of operating the vehicles and carrying out combat duties. Most of the soldiers here are draftees”, stated Vasiliy Bondarenko, the commander of the flamethrower battalion. What’s left of the targets imitating tanks can’t be seen even through binoculars after the exercises are finished. According to the training scores, the accuracy of the live firing tests with the new missiles were close to 100%.