Deployment of TOS-1 Flamethrowing Systems Tells russians Send "Assault Companies" Instead of Paratroopers in Offense

russian TOS-1A Solntsepyok self-propelled heavy flamethrowing system / Archive photo
russian TOS-1A Solntsepyok self-propelled heavy flamethrowing system / Archive photo

New details give insight how russian forces apply "Storm groups" tactics in their offensive operations in Ukraine

Earlier in the first days of April, we discussed how russians draft so-called "assault companies" before an attack on Ukrainian positions. These groups of soldiers together make "assault groups", a combined arms military unit similar to a Soviet BTGr halved in numbers.

At that point we already knew that as flexible as they are, these troop companies usually consist of at least 100 personnel: four platoons of 20, a company commander and his deputy, plus a reconnaissance team of 8 with 2 UAV operators on top, a team of sappers of 5, and an evacuation team of 3 people. Main armament is rifles and grenade launchers, primary role is fighting in urban environment and/or seizing enemy strongholds, although on paper they also have to be capable of "sabotage activities."

Read more: ​The UK Defense Intelligence: the russian Airborne Forces Receive TOS-1A MLRS, Probably for Offensive Operations
Equpment of a squad in an assault company
Equipment of a squad in an assault company / Infographics credit: Tatarigami_UA

It was known that the first stage of draft into the assault companies began in October 2022 and lasted till February 2023 at the 1st Army Corps; the second continued from February to March 2023 in the tank and motor rifle divisions of the russian army. The third stage lasting from March to April 2023 affects independent motor rifle brigades.

New details of this process revealed by Ukraine's Land Forces top commander Oleksandr Syrskyi in an interview to Interfax-Ukraine shed some light on the general picture.

Colonel General Syrskyi said such assault units are formed inside each regiment or brigade on the basis of motor rifle companies reinforced with tanks, mortars, ATGMs and heavy flamethrowers. Their task is to reclaim the lines they lost to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. These groups also receive help from allied artillery and indirect tank fire.

Equipment of other units in an assault company
Equipment of other units in an assault company / Infographics credit: Tatarigami_UA

The offense may come in three to four waves, each engaging up to 10 soldiers with small arms. The command and control is ensured by UAVs that transmit the picture from above to the company commander.

A notable fact is that each assault company commander has a smartphone with an app designed for mountaineers, the Alpine Quest GPS. They mark the coordinates of Ukrainian firing points and lay the route for the assault group to follow, as well as the tasks for the adjacent russian units.

military drills of russian army
Illustrative photo: military drills of the russian army / Archive photo

These aspects show how the drafting and application tactics of the assault companies has been changing over time. Also, they point to the empirical criteria: if russians deploy their scarce TOS-1 Solntsepyok to some area of the frontline, it doesn't necessarily indicate there are any "elite" units deployed there, contrary to the opinion of many Western analysts.

First thing that should come to mind once you spot this self-propelled flamethrower is that one of those "assault companies" made of ordinary motor rifle forces started operating there.

russians transport their TOS-1A to the Ukrainian frontline, April 2023
russians transport their TOS-1A Solntsepyok heavy flamethrowing system to the Ukrainian frontline, April 2023 / Photo credit: Rob Lee
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