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Russia’s Thermobaric Weapons and Bomber Runs

PINR has a new defense briefing analyzing Russia’s recent increases in military activity: One theme that seems to tie together much of Russia’s policies and actions is also involved in the renewal of bomber runs and the new technological advances. Russia is set upon a course of gaining an energy monopoly, and has already set up a very effective infrastructure for transporting oil and natural gas into the Eastern European energy market. The new military developments are a show of power, as the bombers demonstrate that Russia can extend its influence, and back it up with force if necessary.

From The Power and Interest News Report (PINR):

”Intelligence Brief: Russia Reasserts Power with Thermobaric Weapons and Bomber Runs”During the past few months, the Russian Federation has implemented a new doctrine of increased military activity, as well as the development of new thermobaric bombs. There are a number of political implications for Russia’s close neighbors and for the international community.The renewed bomber runs, which have been a regular occurrence since June 2007, have skirted U.S., British, and Norwegian airspace. Besides their provocative nature, Russia has not violated any international laws since the bombers have never entered the airspace of another country. Instead, the bombers have remained in international airspace, and only come close to U.S., British, and Norwegian airspace.Nevertheless, the bombers have caused sufficient concern, as has been seen by the scrambling of Norwegian, British, and U.S. interceptors to “escort” the Russian bombers back toward Russian airspace. The perception of these flights has been summed up by Gene Renuart, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (N.O.R.A.D.), who told the media last month that “any time you have an unidentified aircraft approaching sovereign airspace of the country there’s some concern about the intentions of the airplane.”The statement from Renuart encompasses the concerns of the political and military elite in the West. The return of the bomber runs has many of the older members of the Western political and military elite reminiscing about the days of the Cold War. This unnerve in the West is exactly what the Russians want, as Moscow is using the bomber runs in order to extend their influence over their neighbors, and to achieve leverage from their political adversaries in the West.Another change in the military spectrum of the Russian Federation is the recent development of the so called “Father of All Bombs,” or F.O.A.B. Aside from the obvious play on words used on the U.S. military’s “Mother of All Bombs” (M.O.A.B.; the acronym was originally derived from the technical name, Massive Ordinance Air Blast), the F.O.A.B. represents an explosive leap forward in non-nuclear weaponry, especially in the field of thermobaric weaponry. [See: “Keep a Watchful Eye on Russia’s Military Technology”]The F.O.A.B. is allegedly four times as powerful, and produces an explosion that is twice as hot, as the next most powerful thermobaric weapon, the aforementioned M.O.A.B. It is also interesting to note the rhetoric involved with the name of the new bomb; while the United States may have the Mother of All Bombs, the Russians want everyone to know that they have the Father of All Bombs.Thermobaric weaponry is classified by the use of atmospheric oxygen instead of carrying an oxidizer. Thermobarics produce a far greater explosion, and therefore are more destructive than other conventional explosives. While they are less predictable, this flaw does not make them less desirable than more accurate weapons, for they are used when attacking certain stationary targets, such as airports and troop formations, where high levels of precision are not necessary.Perhaps the greatest strength of the thermobaric weapon is its ability to create a large explosion that affects the surrounding area, making it the perfect weapon for massive bombing campaigns against strategic targets. Evidence of this can be found in the use of thermobarics by the United States in Afghanistan, and the Russian use of thermobarics against the Chechen capital of Grozny in the second Chechen War (some experts believe that the U.S. “Daisy Cutter” used in Vietnam was a thermobaric bomb, and there are also reports of Russian use during the Russian-Sino border conflict in 1969).There are a number of interests driving Russia’s redefined military doctrine.First, the enlargement of N.A.T.O.’s power into the border countries surrounding Russia has stoked fears in the Russian military and political hierarchy, who feel the need to reassert their power in the region.While N.A.T.O. is no longer seen as the “arch-enemy” that it represented to the Soviet Union, there is still residual unrest concerning N.A.T.O. and the United States in the Russian security apparatus, which still includes officers who were in positions of command in the Red Army while the Soviet Union was still in existence.This fear has also been stoked after the U.S.-led N.A.T.O. intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is not difficult to imagine the Russian military and political elite being concerned after two powers, that had once so vigorously opposed it, took military action in a region considered to be within Russia’s sphere of influence. It is possible that Russia has decided to “remind” the United States and N.A.T.O. that even though the Iron Curtain has fallen, the Russian Federation is still a power with which to be reckoned.Second, the constant perceived threat in Chechnya most likely has some effect on the development of new weaponry, especially the new advances made in the form of the new thermobaric weaponry. Russia has illustrated that it has no reservations in using thermobarics, or using them against civilian targets, as was shown in the second Chechen war when they used the TOS-1 system in order to strike at the Chechen capital, Grozny.Third, one theme that seems to tie together much of Russia’s policies and actions is also involved in the renewal of bomber runs and the new technological advances. Russia is set upon a course of gaining an energy monopoly, and has already set up a very effective infrastructure for transporting oil and natural gas into the Eastern European energy market. The new military developments are a show of power, as the bombers demonstrate that Russia can extend its influence, and back it up with force if necessary.The recent testing of the F.O.A.B. is a potent show of power by the Russian military. By making public the testing of the new weapon, which is four times as powerful as Washington’s nearest non-nuclear weapon, the Russian Federation has displayed its preeminence in Eastern Europe. This showing of force encourages submission from Russia’s neighboring states, especially from those that have shown friendship toward the United States, such as Georgia. It also demonstrates that it is in their best interests to work with Russia on building an energy monopoly in and around Eastern Europe.The development of these weapons and the re-institution of strategic bomber runs may represent a new era for the Russian Federation, one where Moscow increasingly attempts to demonstrate that it has the military means to seize and hold what it perceives to be its vital interest at home and abroad.